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Volume 22 No. 27
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Game Changers: Challenges

Game Changers honorees answered this question: How should the industry address the challenges women face working in sports?

 

Naz Aletaha: Acknowledge the challenges. Encourage open dialogue to understand their root causes and create forums where meaningful solutions can be proposed and implemented. Establish career development opportunities at all levels, including early development and mentorship in high school and college. And empower more women to take on leadership roles and be stewards for positive change.

 

Megan Hughes Allison: If the industry didn’t look at challenges, but rather the opportunities women face working in sports, it would have a completely different perspective. The opportunity to have the intelligence, persistence, wisdom, patience and thoughtfulness that women can bring should be exciting to the industry. We should embrace this opportunity and continue to proactively pay it forward to young women coming up behind us.

 

Michelle Andres: Commit to developing internal women’s networks and making women a part of every aspect of the business; encourage men to think differently about the role of women in sports: just because women don’t play a sport doesn’t mean they can’t make significant contributions to its success.

 

Molly Arbogast: Women need to continue raising their hands and pursuing the big leadership positions.

 

Christine Burke: A suggestion that would be a small change with a big impact: As an industry, it is crucial that we are creating opportunities and providing access for young women to thrive in an equal field. Each of us have to take our part to champion gender equality to make true progress and empower future generations.

 

Shelly Cayette: Be more transparent, highlighting the challenge areas that exist without being defensive about them, while also continuing to highlight the great progress being made. Also, we should continue to highlight men in the workplace taking the initiative to close the gaps in pay, promotion opportunities, and ability and flexibility in the workplace to be a woman (i.e. pregnancy and raising a family).   

 

Kim Damron: We still don’t hire enough women in our industry, and too many women feel like they have to drop out of the workforce because it’s too hard to balance work and family. We need to be serious about enabling that balance.

 

Kim Davis: I believe in the Nike phrase “Just do it.” The challenges are only challenges if people in power don’t embrace them. We could fix any of the issues with women in sports with the wave of the magic wand that people in positions of power have. It’s just a matter of deciding to do it.

 

Jill Driban: There are some incredible women in our industry who are front and center, but there are just not enough. At times I struggled to find mentors and that should not be the case. As an industry, we need to find a way to continue to encourage and support women, especially the younger generation, to cultivate those next great leaders — Game Changers.

 

Wendy Fallen: Every challenge is an opportunity. Embrace them.

 

Julie Giese: I think this is already happening and we just need to keep a continued focus on it.

 

Melissa Heiter: With honesty and transparency. If we’re not talking about it, we can’t fix it. And that starts at the top from our leadership as they bring in women and people of color to make sure all voices are included in decision-making.

 

Krista Hiner: Increase visibility of women in the industry, give them a platform to share their stories, and take action based on that feedback. There is no single solution to these problems, but a consistent, ongoing effort to listen and act will help chip away at the problems.

 

Terri Carmichael Jackson: With a long-term plan, a steadfast and unrelenting commitment to success and with the understanding that by investing in girls and women, boys and men will win too.

 

Michele Kajiwara: Cast a wider net and take more chances when hiring so more women have an opportunity to apply and be considered. Also, try and use the same metrics to evaluate and compensate talent — seems like so much more work to have a double standard for men and women.

 

Meredith Kinsman: The industry should be a leader in setting up the workplace for all diverse populations to thrive. Consider being a leading industry in remote workforces, flexibility, and transparent compensation practices. 

 

Thayer Lavielle: By continuing to celebrate women and by continuing the conversation at every level, at every company. We all need to do better.

 

Melanie LeGrande: At its core, the industry must continue to acknowledge that there is room to improve. In many areas. And leadership should be intentional in ensuring there is significant representation and inclusion in high-level decision-making affecting the business.

 

Michelle McGoldrick: As a mom of young children working in the sports and entertainment business, I think it will become increasingly important for companies to embrace flexibility in the workplace. If we want to retain female talent at the top, work-life balance will continue to be paramount. 

 

Lucinda McRoberts: Facilitate an inclusive environment whereby women can participate fully.

 

Jamie Morningstar: The challenges: equal pay, gender bias and non-inclusive work environments. The only way any of these challenges are addressed is if everyone acknowledges them and attacks them with transparency, communication and accountability. 

 

Sianneh Mulbah: Organizations as a whole need to realize the value that women bring to the workplace, assess how an organization’s leaders support women and determine how to put policies in place that help women find equality and thrive. A huge step is seeing women in leadership roles that lead the next generation of female leaders.

 

Pamela Murrin: Recruiting women early in their career and teaching/coaching as they develop so that they grow within the business. [It's] harder to join from the outside at senior levels.

 

Laura Neal: We each have to take responsibility in advocating for a diverse mix of voices in the room and within the decision-making process. Women in leadership positions can’t be the only ones advocating for other women. This has to be a shared goal with the understanding that parity and respect are not just good ideas, they’re good for business.

 

Gloria Nevarez: Articulate the issues and become part of the solution. It’s not just women who can drive change for women, anyone in positions of power can prioritize change.

 

Moira O’Connor: By allowing women in the industry to be part of the solution. Creating working groups for women in the business to connect on a bigger level to focus in on what those challenges are.

 

Nicolina O’Rorke: Men and women in sports need to work together in partnership to ensure women get enough exposure to the parts of the business that offer advancement and meaningful career-building opportunities. Through our Women’s Network @ NBCUniversal, we have created programs like “Office Hours,” which give women and junior professionals in our organization the chance to spend time with an NBC Sports executive to get to know their business, open their eyes to development and career opportunities, and give senior leaders an opportunity to hear good ideas from individuals they don’t have the chance to interact with on a regular basis.

 

Djenaba Parker: Focus not only on diversity but also on inclusion. How can we make women feel like a part of the team once they are hired? The same goes for other minority groups. And don’t be afraid to foster open conversations about how best to make that happen.

 

Ana Shapiro Queenan: We need to continue to promote women to senior positions so that other women can see themselves in those positions and set their goals knowing that there is a place for them at the table. More visibility will motivate and provide access.

 

Caroline Rebello: Phase out artificially exclusionary philosophies, policies and practices that prevent women from entering the business and staying in the business with longevity. Hiring practices, business practices, maternity/paternity policies and flexible work programs are within our control and changes to them can benefit everyone in sports.

 

Tracie Rodburg: It’s all about communication to achieve a work environment that supports everyone.

 

Carla Rosenberg: The key is providing equal opportunities and qualified women will continue to take on leadership roles. Men and women both need to be working together to advance everyone toward a supportive work environment.

 

Tara Gutkowski Schwartz: Flexibility! I’ve had the opportunity to work from home one day a week since my daughter was born eight years ago. I still do my job, I still travel, I still bring everything I have to the table, but I get to show my two children that being their mother is, and always will be, my No. 1 priority. Also, I get to show the young women I work with that with a lot of effort and good support, they can make it all work.

 

Carrie Skillman: Treat us as equals and afford us the same opportunities to advance our careers.

 

Maureen Smith: Leaders need to be intentional about expanding access and opportunities to work in sports to a broader audience. How we recruit, interview and hire for every position matters.

 

Amy Sprangers: I would love to continue to see strong, bold, accountable women inspired and emboldened to create change. Women who are not afraid to lead the conversation, women who have an inclusive mindset because understanding other points of view and having representation at every level is so important.

 

Neda Tabatabaie: We need to be intentional about diversity and inclusion, talking about it will create awareness but it will do little in actually making the change. It’s up to each of us to actually do something, in whatever position we have, instead of waiting for other people to do something for us. Women or men, inclusion is good for everybody. It can start with being cognizant of our own biases and addressing them. Pay attention to who and how you are hiring.

 

Tina Thornton: The industry must recognize that having diverse voices at the table is critical to their business success. Those diverse voices need to be included in the conversation. ESPN has a saying: “Diversity is who is on the team. Inclusion is who gets to play.” More women need the opportunity to get in the game. 

 

Alisha Valavanis: Head on. Although there has been progress over the years, there are still incredible inequities and challenges facing women working in sports. We need to continue to identify these gaps and acknowledge the unique and complex social backdrop that plays into them. We need to continue the work toward a path forward, without pause, until it is a more equitable space for women, on and off the playing fields. 

 

Whitney Wagoner: I’d like us to get to a point where we can make the statement that women’s experiences are different and we don’t have to imbue that with some sort of judgment. I just want us to start from (that) shared understanding.