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Volume 22 No. 2
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WNBA stays out front in diversity of hiring

The Seattle Storm’s Alisha Valavanis (left with former WNBA President Lisa Borders) is one of six women in CEO/president positions with WNBA teams.
Photo: nbae / getty images

The WNBA has maintained its top spot in overall diversity and gender hiring practices within sports, according to the latest data compiled by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.

The 2018 WNBA Racial and Gender Report Card, created by the institute known as TIDES, gives the WNBA an A+ for both its racial and gender hiring practices. TIDES gave the league an overall score of 97.6, up from 93.7, or an A grade, in 2017. The WNBA earned 95.1 points for its racial hiring practices and an unprecedented score of 99.9 for its gender hiring practices in 2018.

It is the 14th consecutive year that the WNBA has been awarded an overall score of at least an A grade for its gender and racial hiring practices.

“The fact that the WNBA has women in leadership positions with support of the NBA, it would be surprising that they weren’t the best, but they are still off the charts,” said Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study and director of TIDES. “It is not just lip service. It is because they are making it a more successful league, with their attendance and ratings up this year. Diversity is good business.”

Despite the strong grades, the report noted a decline in the number of people of color in WNBA head coaching jobs, with three of the 12 teams having coaches of color, which is tied with the lowest number since 2006.

Still, the WNBA is the most diverse league in sports with 52 percent of all team professional positions held by women, up 13.2 percentage points from 2017, and 27.7 percent of all team professional positions held by people of color, up slightly from last year.

“They are way ahead of the standard, but there is opportunity in terms of GMs and coaching positions,” Lapchick said. “That being said, I am not concerned because everything else is so good.”

 

There are 36 women and 12 people of color working at the vice president level or above in WNBA team front offices, the report says. Six women are CEO/presidents at the team level, up one from 2017, matching the highest number that was set in 2010. Four people of color hold the CEO/president role, up from three last year and matching the highest number set in 2015.

The NBA is the only league comparable to the WNBA in gender and diversity levels. The NBA this year earned an A+ for racial hiring practices and a B for gender hiring practices.

“There is a focus on making sure that the slates of candidates that we consider are diverse,” said Oris Stuart, chief diversity and inclusion officer for the NBA, which owns the WNBA. “It is also about being connected to those places where diverse candidates will show up and having a reputation that we are a place that has great opportunity.”

At press time, the WNBA had three key executive openings, including the league president title left vacant after the departure of Lisa Borders. Expect a continued diversity emphasis as the league fills those positions.

“It is an inclusive process and I’d like to believe that we will have great choices from great people and the pool will be diverse,” Stuart said. “I can’t predict what the outcome will be, but I can guarantee that it will be an inclusive process throughout.”