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Volume 23 No. 13
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WNBA stays No. 1 in gender, racial hiring

The WNBA continues to be the leader in diversity and gender hiring practices within sports, according to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.


The 2019 WNBA Racial and Gender Report Card, created by the institute known as TIDES, again gives the WNBA an overall A+ for its hiring practices, the same grade as last year. 

TIDES gave the league an overall score of 94.8 points, down from a record 97.6 points in 2018. The WNBA earned an A+, or 95.6 points, for its racial hiring practices and an A, or 94 points, for its gender hiring practices compared to 99.9 last year.

It is the 15th consecutive year that the WNBA has been awarded an overall grade of at least an A for its gender and racial hiring practices. This year, the league again had the highest number of A+ grades and the lowest number of grades below an A- compared to any other professional sports league tracked by TIDES.

“For us to sustain these results shows the long-term commitment and it is baked into the core of how the organization is run,” said Oris Stuart, chief diversity and inclusion officer for the NBA. “One of the things we focus on is the attention that is drawn on the leadership levels. It reflects what people see, but we have to remain focused on the pipeline of talent in the organization on the professional level and outside the organization.” 

The report did note that the number of women holding league office jobs dropped for the fourth consecutive season to 48.9% from 50% in 2018.

Despite the decrease, the WNBA is the most diverse league in sports with 45% of all team professional positions held by women and 29% of all team professional positions held by people of color, according to the report. The highest percentage of women in any WNBA category was in the assistant coaches category at 61.5%. There were three African American head coaches in the 12-team league, the same as last year, and five female head coaches, one fewer than in 2018.

“The highlight is that the WNBA continues to lead all professional and collegiate sports in diversity and inclusion, including at senior level positions,” said Richard Lapchick, director of TIDES and the primary author of the report. “Here, the number of vice presidents of color increased from 16% to 27% and other such increases are encouraging. We note any decreases, but we are not alarmed.”

Lapchick stressed the importance of the league hiring Cathy Engelbert as WNBA commissioner, the first time the league added the commissioner title to the top WNBA executive position, replacing the league president title that had been used in the past.

“The fact that they appointed a commissioner instead of a president is a symbolic statement that the NBA and WNBA views it as a commissioner-level position,” Lapchick said.