Breakthrough year likely for team, league diversity
After a year that spotlighted the powerful #MeToo movement, expect gender issues to stay front and center throughout the sports industry in 2019, according to diversity and inclusion experts.
“It is really about the progress of women in the wake of the #MeToo movement,” said Oris Stuart, executive vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer for the NBA, which is the most diverse among all the U.S. leagues, according to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at UCF. “Companies have been mobilizing at a foundational level to make sure that workplaces are harassment free and respectful. There is more investment than ever that seeks to close any gaps that exist in how men and women are represented. There is a recognition of having women represented in fair and equal force in all levels.”
The expected effort for teams and leagues this year to add more women in the workplace begs the question: Will 2019 be the year that a woman is named a head coach or ascends to a general manager role?
“We need to see continued emphasis on that,” said TIDES Director Richard Lapchick, who predicted that the glass ceiling will soon be shattered.
In December, the Indiana Pacers named Kelly Krauskopf as assistant general manager, the first woman to hold the title in the NBA.
“I think it will happen soon,” Lapchick said. “It always takes a pioneer to break the ceiling, and once it is broken, it will be easier for others to have breakthroughs.”
Whether that day comes in 2019 or later, there is little doubt that the coming year will bring more women to key organizational jobs.
In addition to the Pacers hiring Krauskopf, the Toronto Maple Leafs last year hired four-time Canadian Olympic hockey gold-medalist Hayley Wickenheiser as assistant director of player development. Becky Hammon, assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, last year interviewed for the head coaching job of the Milwaukee Bucks.
In December, the Denver Nuggets hired WNBA star Sue Bird as a basketball operations associate, while Comcast Spectacor recently hired Valerie Camillo as Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Center president of business operations, one of only a few female executives to lead an NHL team.
All the moves have helped create increased momentum for greater inclusion in 2019.
“It is role modeling for women to look up and see that you have a path,” said Shannon Hosford, vice president of marketing and communications for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “Diversity and inclusion has to be a state of mind in organizations going forward. It is more than a check box on a human resources chart.”
Worth watching in 2019 is how much diversity progress is made in sports such as golf, which historically has been dominated by white men.
Organizations such as the PGA of America and PGA Tour are increasing their diversity efforts, including a new program that the tour launched last month called Closing The Gap, which creates internal employee groups within the organization to address diversity and inclusion issues. It’s the latest initiative within the tour’s Advancing Women Leadership program.
“These are not just groups that meet for coffee,” said Allison Keller, chief administrative officer for the PGA Tour. “We want them to help our culture get more inclusive.”
But as the tour and other sports properties create new diversity programs, the industry will be looking for quantitative results from their efforts.
“People are putting the right leadership around it,” Keller said. “It is on the agenda. I’d like to see people show measurable results. That is an important trend. We are excited about the results.”