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ESPN President John Skipper: Elevating The Profile Of Women In Sports

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Dana Point, CA - October 10, 2013 - St. Regis Monarch Beach: John Skipper and Sage Steele during the 2013 ESPNW Summit. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

Dana Point, CA – October 10, 2013 – St. Regis Monarch Beach: John Skipper and Sage Steele during the 2013 ESPNW Summit.
(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

John SkipperESPN President and Co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks, has an unmistakable southern accent. It is the type of drawl that makes you sit up straight, lean toward the edge of your seat, and hang on his every word.

He grabs your attention.

His tenure at ESPN began in 1997 as the senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine. A few years later, oversight of ESPN.com was added to his vitae, and in 2003, a promotion to executive vice president ensued. In 2005, Skipper became ESPN’s executive vice president of content. Here, he guided the creation, programming and production of ESPN content across all media platforms.

2012 marked the beginning of his most influential role with the network. Since taking over the reins, ESPN signed long-term agreements with Major League Baseball, the college football playoff, and AT&T T -0.43% U-Verse, just to name a few. This year, FORBES listed ESPN as one of the world’s most valuable brands in sports with an estimated brand value of $15.0 billion, which is up from $11.5 billion in 2012.

It is safe to say that Skipper has devoted his entire career in sports to mastering the art of capturing audiences.

His most recent challenge is advancing ESPN’s women’s sports audience. Skipper and his team TISI +2.2% are driven to increase women’s sports viewers and advertisers, and leave them wanting more. Specifically, his attention and talent is focused on espnW which is “ESPN’s first dedicated content and digital business initiative designed to serve, inform, and inspire female fans.”

Team espnW does not operate in a vacuum, and theWomen + Sports Summit presented by Toyota is an example of their commitment to grow the brand with the assistance of countless women in sports leaders.

A sample of the 2013 participants include: Anucha Browne, Vice President of Women’s Basketball Championships, NCAA; Sharon Byers, Senior Vice President, Sports & Entertainment MarketingCoca-Cola KO -0.49% North America; Donna de Varona, Olympic swimmer and member of the IOC Women and Sport Commission; Laura Desmond, Global Chief Executive Officer, Starcom MediaVest Group; Janet Evans, Olympic swimmer; Julie Eddleman; North America Brand Operations Marketing Director, P&G; Julie Foudy, Olympic soccer player and television analyst; Michelle Kwan, Olympic figure skater; Kathryn Olson, CEO, Women’s Sports Foundation; and Merritt Paulson, Owner and President of the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer and Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League.

“It was our intention to build upon the legacy of ESPN and women’s sports and to take a leadership position and focus our efforts on what we could do to drive women’s sports forward,” Skipper said about the fourth annual espnW summit.

“This is a unique venture where we invite friends, partners, athletes, and leaders in women’s sports to come and have a discussion and help us think about what we might do next. It is one of the few events where we end up with a set of priorities, which we want to take action on.”

An example of that action is the extended partnership between ESPN and the WNBA. At the 2012 summit, WNBA President, Laurel Richie, made a powerful impression on the attendees by urging them to consider what they could do to get behind the WNBA and help move the league forward. Skipper proudly announced that ESPN stepped up to the challenge and earlier this year announced a long-term television partnership with the league.

“We got behind it, and ratings were up this year. This is the best year we’ve had,” said Skipper. “We want to continue to show this leadership and do more for women’s sports. We believe in it. We believe in supporting female athletes and female executives, and we want to be leaders in that.”

In the words of legendary UCLA softball coach and espnW advisory board member, Sue Enquist, “There is something to be said about a company that makes an investment not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it recognizes that it will translate into a meaningful business decision down the road.”

Skipper and ESPN are leading that charge.

During the espnW: Women + Sports Summit, Forbes.com caught up with Skipper to discuss ESPN’s role in elevating how women see sports in their lives, how espnW exposes the best and brightest female athletes to the world, and the challenges associated with this mission. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Alana Glass: Why is the espnW: Women + Sports Summit an important event to host year-after-year?

John Skipper: We decided about three years ago that we wanted to establish an overt leadership position for ESPN Women’s Sports.  We have been the leader in televising women’s sports for years, and we do more women’s events on television than the rest of the sports business put together.  We wanted to have a directed initiative, effort, and brand that allowed us to make our efforts more coherent and consistent.

The summit is a high-profile, highly visible, once-a-year gathering of leaders across different categories of women’s sports. Whether it is the leagues, marketers, athletes, media, to talk about the state of women’s sports. Where are we and how do we continue to press forward with growing women’s sports?

AG: Recently, I learned that the day after ESPN was founded in 1979, the network aired women’s sports the next day. Is it challenging to get the message across to fans that ESPN has been committed to women’s sports since day one?

JS: When we started espnW, it clearly had an advocacy position and a leadership position. We wanted to advocate for women’s sports. That was what the 40th anniversary of Title IX allowed us to do. Establishing a public brand, is clearly about us trying to put a stake in the ground that we are leaders here.

And of course, I’ll refer to the legacy. We have been [broadcasting] women’s sports for a long time. Now it is just a more concerted public effort to continue to do that and to be more of an advocate.  We also want to do it because we think this is not only good business, it is good externally. Obviously, we also think it is good internally. We are trying hard to diversify our workforce and to make sure that people know that women have every opportunity at ESPN.

AG: How does espnW fit into ESPN’s overall business model?

JS: For most of ESPN’s history, our proposition to advertisers has been about reaching young men. That has been the business advertising platform. We believe that because of Title IX, women have participated in sports at significantly higher and higher levels. That has translated into more and more women also watching sports. Now, it is not a one-to-one relationship. Just because women play basketball, does not mean they watch women’s basketball, but they might watch men’s basketball. Or they might watch NFL. So in terms of business, it is about ratings.

Women watch more and more sports, and we want those women to believe that ESPN is their home to watch sports. As women watch more sports, marketers will use sports to reach women. Traditionally, they have not used sports in a lot of ways to reach women. That opens up new advertising categories for us.

AG: How has the corporate and business community responded to espnW and the summit?

JS: What we are trying to create with the summit and this engagement is to move marketers toward understanding that sports is a great way to reach women. It is also the fact that the women they reach through sports tend to be more active, more engaged, and tend to be higher socioeconomic groups, so it is a good place. We want more advertisers to move forward, to understand the power of sports to reach women, and to engage with us on that.

AG: What are the challenges or hurdles associated with your goals?

JS: The biggest challenge we would love to crack are the ratings for women’s sports. We saw good movement this year with the WNBA, which we are happy about. We have seen good numbers, for instance, women’s college softball.  But we would like to see that all fans, men and women, have a greater interest and respect and avidity for women’s sports.  We would like more people to watch the WNBA. I think that it is probably the hardest thing we have to figure out how to crack here.

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

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Laura Gentile, espnW Imagines The Future Of Women’s Sports

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As a female journalist and sports fan, I cannot help but notice that people are often

Dana Point, CA - October 9, 2013 - St. Regis Monarch Beach: Welcome Reception during the 2013 ESPNW Summit. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

Dana Point, CA – October 9, 2013 – St. Regis Monarch Beach: Welcome Reception during the 2013 ESPNW Summit.
(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

uncomfortable talking about women’s sports. And when the subject of creating platforms specifically dedicated to female athletes and sports fans arises the conversation goes from uncomfortable to divisive.

There are those who are firmly against any programming or platforms that cater to female sports fans and athletes, and there are those who are for it. The part that baffles me is that in 2013, the “for and against” conversation still exists. On some level it is almost as if there are “red” and “blue” sides on this issue (and considering the tone and tenor of today’s political climate, we’re seeing first-hand what happens when two sides cannot agree).

It would be naïve of me to think that my comments regarding this issue can all of a sudden create unity on this topic, but I invite you to consider this question.

If women’s sports were everything WE believe it can be, what would it look like?

I wish I could take credit for this question; it actually belongs to Laura C. Gentile who is the vice president of espnW who started exploring it in 2008.

“We’d covered women’s sports for decades. We’d served millions of women, but we’ve never focused on women as a target audience with a discreet business unit,” said Gentile. “We just started thinking, if we were to create a business at ESPN for women, what would it look like?”

They talked to women to find out what they wanted and what they would accept. In response, they heard, “I know ESPN is a leader and they have incredible credibility. If they do it right and it is authentic, I’d embrace it.”

So began the genesis of espnW, a place for women who love sports; that speaks to them as athletes and fans.

“We thought long and hard about these five letters, espnW, and what they need to represent and what they need to stand for,” Gentile said. “They need to be action oriented and forward looking, consistently progressive, innovative and also of the highest quality. And we want this to be a brand that women think is cool and vibrant.”

In 2010, espnW launched with a five and ten-year business plan. During the first annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit, Gentile spoke openly about the dynamic of women’s sports fans and coverage at ESPN. At that time,  ESPN.com reached over 5 million women a month, and ESPN the Magazine reached over 3 million female readers that year. Women made up over 40% of the viewing audience, yet only contributed to 23% of the viewing hours.

Gentile said, “That’s a dynamic we are going to change, by creating a specific and unique environment for women at espnW.com. We are creating a home for women athletes and fans – the place for sports-minded women to go and stay.”

However, the concept of espnW was not met with tremendous fanfare, and it suffered bruises in the beginning. There were critics who did not understand what they were trying to accomplish, and many who did not want to understand.

“That was a bit unforeseen because a lot of that criticism came before we even had a product. They assumed the worst. That this would be dumbed down, that it would be pink, or it would be condescending,” said Gentile.

“I think what they missed is the authenticity behind it. And unfortunately, some of that criticism came equally from men and women.

Interestingly enough, Gentile believes that the criticism they experienced in their first two years has made the site stronger. She was never under any illusion that creating a dedicated digital platform for women to converse and see issues that matter to them would be easy. As a result, espnW sharpened its message, took more risks, and explored innovation.

Recently, espnW launched a new responsive website that allows users to seamlessly shift between a desktop, tablet, and mobile device. Additionally, its 2012-2013 integration featured the Nine for IX documentary series, In the Game with Robin Roberts, the 3 to See, and The Summer of W. As a result, ESPN.com is reaching 10 million women per month, and in August of this year espnW.com reached over 4 million women.

“We’re reaching new women. We’re also serving the women that we’ve always served,” Gentile said. “We’re also opening a lot of eyes that women’s sports are part of the future. The dynamic of changing viewing hours and habits; that is going take a long time.”

Fortunately, Gentile has found that the conversation surrounding espnW has swung from a lot of people questioning why to people saying “what’s next?”

So what is next?

There are plans to go deeper in the college space, where espnW will be featured in women’s basketball and softball telecasts. Also, there is more that they want to do across television. Ideally over time, you will see more and more programming from espnW across the network that engages women.

Also, expect to see continued partnerships with the corporate community. Nike, Gatorade, and P&G were founding partners even before there was a product, and they are still on board. Likewise, Toyota, JBL by Harman, Under Armour, and Rite Aid are sponsoring espnW’s fourth annual Women+ Sports Summit currently being held in Dana Point, California (October 9-11).

espnW and its summit demonstrate the belief that people who have different conversations about women’s sports can collectively come together and imagine what the future can look like.

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

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How America Brands Female Athletes

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Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar starts her women's 800m round 1 heat during the London 2012 Olympic GamesAmerica’s Sweetheart. Hot. Sexy. Exotic. Girl Next Door.

These are labels used to describe the world’s most accomplished female athletes including former gymnast and Olympic gold medalist, Mary Lou Retton; NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick; former professional beach volleyball player, Gabrielle Reece; Olympic hurdler, Lolo Jones; and former world number one professional tennis player,Chris Evert.

Athletic accomplishments are supposed to speak entirely for themselves. But in the world of women’s sports the way a female athlete looks adds another layer of scrutiny. The value placed on appearance rather than achievements is difference between a woman excelling in her chosen field or having to relying on alternative revenue streams.

Tonight, ESPN films and espnW explore the double standard placed on women to be dominant athletes on the field and sexy off of it in the Nine for IX film Branded (August 27 on ESPN 8 pm ET).

Executive produced by Robin Roberts and Jane Rosenthal, and directed byHeidi Ewing and Rachel GradyBranded explores the question: can women’s sports ever gain an equal footing with their male counterparts or will sex always override achievement?

“You look at a male athlete, and they can make their entire living based off of their skill. For a female athlete we make most of our money on the side,” said Hope Solo, a professional soccer player who is featured in the documentary.

How did we get here?

“Girls get the message from early on that what’s most important is how they look; that their value and worth depends on it. And boys get the message that this is what is important about girls,” said Jean Kilbourne, EdD, Senior Scholar Wellesley Centers for Women.

And according to renowned historian and feminist author, Barbara J. Berg, PhD, “Patriarchy really is America’s default setting. Where men hold the positions of privilege and power, and where women very often are treated as second-class citizens.”

No matter what women achieve, we still live in a culture where a woman’s value is judged on her appearance; if you are very beautiful and attractive you can succeed. Being strong, smart, and accomplished is not enough, and this mind-set has trickled down to sports.

Branded offers poignant examples of evolution of this phenomenon.

In the 70’s, Evert was the first female athlete to cross the $1 million mark in endorsements based on her skill and girl next door image. However, equally accomplished but less feminine athletes, such as Martina Navratilova, were not offered similar opportunities. In the 80’s, Retton was the most visible female athlete who endorsed IBM, AT&T, Energizer, McDonald’s, and Wheaties. Given her visibility, advisors told her to smile and not say anything that could possibly upset people, which left her feeling voiceless.

The 90’s ushered in an era where women’s team sports were front and center. The WNBA launched in 1997 and today continues to be the longest running women’s professional basketball league is sports history. The women of the WNBA are tough and competitive, and at times accused of being too physical. Some suggest that the league should take greater strides in the direction of femininity to attract more viewers. Do we honestly want fans, especially young girls and boys, to think that wearing tight short shorts is more valuable than hitting a three point shot? Besides the WNBA knows its core audience would not accept stooping to the lowest male chromosome just to increase ratings.

Juxtaposed with the WNBA, is Patrick who is a talented auto racing driver and not shy about exploiting her sex appeal to attract fans and sponsors. Yes, her Go Daddy commercials sting and women across America cringe every time they air. However, in a male dominated sport where gaining corporate sponsorships directly impacts performance on the track, have we given Patrick much of a choice?

Yes, sports is a business, but is it fair that a segment of athletes must rely on their beauty in order to fully participate? Ultimately, we have to find a way to transform our culture, awaken our consciousness, and change minds.

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Ernst & Young Studies The Connection Between Female Executives And Sports

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This post originally appeared on Forbes.com (6/24/2013)

Research shows that women and girls who participate in sports are less likely to take drugs, engage in abusive relationships, or have unwanted pregnancies. And they aremore likely to graduate from high school, receive post-graduate degrees, and earn more money.

A new study, coinciding with the 41stAnniversary of Title IX,  released by accounting firm Ernst & Young has added an additional benefit of Title IX and the impact of participating in sports –becoming a C-suite business executive.

Ernst & Young commissioned a global online survey to investigate the important role of sports in the development of female executive in connection with its Women Athletes Global Leadership Network, whichI reported on last March. The first-of-its-kind network is designed to connect female elite athletes with business and government leaders who can mentor, inspire, and open doors after their competitive sporting career.

“When I think about Title IX, we see the societal impact that it is having, ” saidBeth Brooke, Global Vice Chair, Public Policy for the Ernst & Young organization, a US Title IX scholarship recipient and one of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women.

“We all know business financial performance improves when more women are in senior levels of management and leadership.”

Brooke and Donna de VaronaOlympic Champion and advisor to Ernst & Young’s Women Athletes Global Leadership Network, have long believed in the strong correlation between sport and success in business, most of which anecdotal or based on outdated research. In the end, their assumptions were validated.

The study found that 90% of the women surveyed had played sports either at primary and secondary school, or during university or other tertiary education, with this proportion rising to 96% among C-suite women. Moreover, in comparing C-level female respondents to other female managers, far more had participated in sports at a higher level. Ultimately, 55% of the C-suite women had played sports at a university level, compared with 39% of other female managers.

The respondents included 821 senior managers and executives (40% female, 60% male) who work at companies with annual revenues in excess of US$250 million. Together they represented 15 different countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States) and a wide range of industries including but not limited to agriculture, automotive, entertainment, media and publishing, government/public sector, financial services, and technology.

“I find it fascinating that sport has such a strong connection to success in business,” said Brooke. “Arguably C-suite women are some of the most successful women, and more than half of them played at a more advanced level than just the general population of women in business that had sport in their background.”

Additional research findings include:

  • 90% of women agree that teams are the best way to address increasingly complex business problems, while 82% agree that improving their organization’s ability to develop and manage teams will be essential for future competitiveness.
  • When comparing C-level female respondents to other female managers, a far higher proportion had participated in sports at a higher level, especially at university or as a working adult. For example, nearly seven in ten (67%) women now occupying a C-level position had participated in sports as a working adult, compared with 55% of other female managers, while 55% of the C-suite women had played sports at a university level, compared with 39% of other female managers.
  • More than three-quarters, or 76%, of women agree that adopting behaviors and techniques from sport in the corporate environment can be an effective way of improving the performance of teams.

“As a Title IX advocate and the first president of the Women’s Sports Foundation I have always felt that if you have numbers and research you can make your case,” said de Varona.

“I am thrilled about this research. I think the women who are athletes that have not awakened to the fact they have all of these skills will learn from the research, and those who are looking for employees and have yet to discover that diversity is strength.”

For more information visit the Women Athletes Global Leadership Networkwhich shares the inspiring stories of female leaders and their connections to sports. 

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Ernst & Young Launches Women Athletes Global Leadership Network

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Women In Sport Press Conference- 2013 Laureus World Sports AwardsLast summer, when we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Title IX and cheered the accomplishments of the 2012 Olympians I asked, “Is Today’s 2012 London Olympian Tomorrow’s CEO?

Also, I quietly wondered, “What’s next?” What happens to elite female athletes after the Olympic spotlight dims?

If you ask Donna de Varona, two-time Olympian in swimming and two-time gold medalist, she will tell you that shortly after the 1964 Olympics, due to limited opportunities for women, her career ended age 17. At that time, there were no discussions about where women could go in sports, and collegiate scholarships for female athletes were unheard of.

Seeing a need for change, de Varona became a strong advocate for Title IX and passionate about connecting women and sport with the business world. Now, after 40 years of progress, de Varona has a new partner, Ernst & Young, in her quest to mentor athletes. The global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services announced at the Laureus World Sports Awards’Women in Sport press conference that it is launching a Women Athletes Global Leadership Network.

“For years I think all of us have wanted to bridge the gap between women in sport and women in business,” said de Varona who will serve as a key advisor to Ernst & Young’s new program.

This program will build a connection between elite athletes and top women leaders. Additionally, the network will inspire and encourage female athletes across the globe to pursue meaningful careers after retirement, and it will focus on the following three elements:

Building the Leadership Network – The first-of-its-kind initiative will bring together a network of athletes and connect these inspiring women with Ernst & Young’s business network of top women leaders and entrepreneurs around the world (Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania). The network will be designed to share lessons learned from career transitions, mentor and open doors, create opportunities and inspire the next generation to maximize its potential.

Highlighting Stories of Inspiration – Ernst & Young plans to leverage the power of Rio 2016 and the emotion of the Olympics by highlighting the success stories of women athletes who have successful post-sport transition into their chosen careers.

Understanding the Impact of Women’s Advancement in Sports and Society – Ernst & Young will commission research about the connections between sports and leadership, as well as the societal and economic effect that women’s access to and participation in sports have on education, health and development around the world.

Participants lending their support to Ernst & Young include leaders such as:Adriana Behar, Olympian and Member, Brazil National Olympic Committee; Deedee Corradini, President, International Women’s Forum;Anita DeFrantz, Olympian and International Olympic Committee Member, Chair of Women and Sports Commission; Nawal El Moutawakel, Olympian and Vice President, International Olympic Committee; and Donna de Varona, Olympian and former President, Women’s Sports Foundation.

While Ernst & Young is widely known for its accounting services, it is no stranger to the women’s empowerment landscape. According to Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair, Public Policy of Ernst & Young, Title IX scholarship recipient, and one Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women, the firm has been focused on women’s economic empowerment for many years.

Since 2008, Ernst & Young has sponsored the Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program, which is an annual competition and executive leadership program that identifies women entrepreneurs whose businesses show real potential to scale – and then helps them do it. And as an official supporter of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Ernst & Young’s marketing activation plan includes an alignment around the Olympic values of inclusiveness and its own values of the advancement of women.

“Coming out of London there was so much momentum around women. It was the first time all of the teams had female athletes and all of the sports were available to both men and women,” Brooke said.

“It reinforced to us that women are an emerging market. The leadership potential that exists in these elite athletes is so consistent with our beliefs in somehow trying to unlock the potential to foster more women’s economic empowerment and leadership.”

It is no secret that there is a direct correlation between women’s participation is sport and their leadership capabilities. Some of the world’s most senior women leaders participated in sports, including former US Secretaries of StateCondolezza Rice and Hillary ClintonBrazil President Dilma Rousseff,PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, and DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman. Additionally, a 2002 survey by MassMutual Financial Group and Oppenheimer Funds (From the Locker Room to the Boardroom: A Survey on Sports in the Lives of Women Business Executives) revealed 80% of the women executives surveyed played sports growing up.

However, “When you look at the progress around women across all sectors, the progress is slow, and it is one of the frustrations,” said Brooke. “We look as this [leadership network] as a great opportunity to do what is necessary now.”

Ernst & Young recognizes that right now women athletes, just like women in business, need access to mentors and role models. Right now the world is in desperate need of leadership that is collaborative and knows how to leverage the value of diversity. And right now women athletes are uniquely skilled and trained to be global leaders.

Ernst & Young does not pretend to have the all of the answers, but it wants to open the playing field for women’s equal participation in business, sport, society, and the economy. Don’t you?

Good Night Sports Fans, 

Alana

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Gabrielle Douglas, Women’s Sports Foundation: How Investing In Women Changes The World

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Olympic-Champion2012 was The Year of Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas.

She rocked the world of sports by gracefully competing at the London Olympics and becoming the first American gymnast to win team and all-around gold in the same Olympics.

Douglas’ journey to the top of the podium is not a story of privilege, but rather an example of what is possible when a community embraces a gifted athlete and is willing to invest in her future.

Yes, when we invest in women, the world does change!

That was one of the many messages from the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy, where the wealthiest people in America including Oprah Winfrey and Melinda French Gates spoke to their peers about the power of giving and investing in girls and women.

It is also the driving mission of the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), an organization dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sport and physical activity.

The WSF, founded in 1974, is the leader in promoting sports, health and education for girls and women. With Billie Jean King as its founder and ongoing visionary, the WSF continues to be an agent for change.

Specifically, the scarcity of funding for women in sports and its barriers to the success of female athletes is an area where the foundation continues to champion change. Year-after-year the WSF attempts to close the resoruces gap via its Travel & Training Fund, which supports gifted and talented athletes by awarding grants ranging from $2,500 – $5,000 to cover the costs of coaching, specialized training, equipment, and travel expenses.

Since 1984, the fund has awarded close to 1,300 grants and $1.5 million to women athletes in a diverse array of sports.

Last month, the WSF announced its 2012 Travel & Training recipients. Douglas was among the 23 individual athletes and three teams representing 18 sports who received the award. Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, submitted an application to the foundation before Douglas’ historic Olympic performance and off the mat achievements, which include an endorsement deal with the Kellogg Co., being named the WSF’s Sportswoman of the Year and the AP’s Top Female Athlete of the Year, and releasing a memoir Grace, Gold & Glory.

While Douglas’ financial situation and world-wide recognition have significantly changed for the better, one thing that has not changed is her humility and sense of gratitude. She decided to donate her $5,000 grant back to the WSF to help fuel the dreams of another athlete.

“I am blessed to be in the position to give back to other athletes and open up opportunities to them,” said Douglas to FORBES.com. “I had hardships during my career and my road was not easy. If I can give them any help, then I am more than happy to do that.”

The primary corporate underwriter of the Travel & Training Fund is Gatorade, and the WSF is appreciative of its behind-the-scenes commitment to women and girls. In the future, the foundation envisions additional corporate sponsors joining Gatorade and giving at the same $100,000 level. Ultimately, the WSF’s goal is to transform the fund into a $1 million program.

“We think this is such a terrific program and the results are obvious, and they are measurable,” said Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation to FORBES.com.

However, the Travel & Training Fund is more than just molding the next elite athlete. Olson explained that the WSF is committed to creating the next generation of leaders by providing access to sport and fitness to all girls, especially those in underserved communities.

In 2012, Douglas taught us that the next generation of women leaders are out there, and anything is possible if we dare to invest in their dreams.

Here’s to 2013 and the next female leader to shake up our world!

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

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10 More Women Who Should Get A Green Jacket From Augusta National

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This post originally appeared on Forbes.com on August 21, 2012

August National Golf Club finally ended its 80-year male-only membership policy.

Yesterday, Chairman, William (Billy) Payne, announced that its first female members will includeformer Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and South Carolina investment banker, Darla Moore.

There is no denying Augusta National’s historical announcement cracks the glass ceiling of gender equality, butwhat will it take to completely shatter it?

For decades the women’s movement pushed for this historic change. The debate intensified in 2002 when Martha Burk, former-chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, sent a private letter to then Augusta National chairman, William W. (Hootie) Johnson, requesting the club change its membership stance.

Johnson replied, “Our membership alone decides our membership – not any outside group with its own agenda.”

At last roughly 300 of the nation’s prominent individuals from the corporate, political, and sports worlds decided it was time to set an agenda that includes the other half of the population – women.

While the Augusta National membership list is private, it reportedly includes billionaire Warren Buffett, former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens Jr., and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Together Rice and Moore will make up less than 1% of the Augusta National’s membership. This small percentage mirrors the number of women who currently serve as high-ranking executives and CEO’s in the United States. For real gender equality to occur, women need greater opportunities within the business landscape. Or better yet invitations to the clubhouse will do.

Here’s a list of ten more women whom Augusta National should give green jackets…

1. Virginia M. (Ginni) Rometty, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM. In April during the 2012 Masters, many wondered if Rometty would be the first female member of Augusta National. Traditionally the club has offered a membership to IBM’s CEO because the company is one of the Masters Tournament’s principal sponsors.

2. Annika Sorenstam, retired professional golfer. Sorenstam is considered the greatest female golfer of all-time (89 career wins and 10 majors), and she is the first female player in LPGA history to cross the $20 million earnings mark. Along with Nicklaus and Palmer, Sorenstam is destined to be a golfing legend.

3. Christine F. Driessen, ESPN, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Driessen oversees all of ESPN’s financial operations. Recently, Driessen played an important role in ESPN’s broadband (ESPN3.com) internet strategy and multimedia programming rights agreements for The Masters and British Open golf.

4. Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pepsico. Nooyi is the chief architect of Pepsico’s 22 brands, including Gatorade which is meticulously aligned with sports and generates more than $1 billion annually.

5. Marissa Mayer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo. Mayer is a young and talented engineer whose innovative reputation could rescue the floundering tech company. Her appointment as Yahoo’s 5th CEO in five years broke the traditional CEO mold, and can easily shake up Augusta Nationals membership dynamic as well.

6. Billie Jean King, former professional tennis player, co-founder of World Team Tennis, and women’s rights advocate. Jean King has won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon. She’s a champion for social change, and simply put a conversation about gender equality cannot take place without bringing Jean King to the table.

7. Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As a businesswoman and philanthropist, Gates is charting the course of the foundation’s pledge to end hunger and poverty. Gates’ association would result in the first power couple within Augusta National’s membership.

8. Robin Roberts, journalist and anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Roberts is a well respected journalist with an audience of roughly five million Americans daily; her reach would appeal to the Augusta membership and sponsors.

9.  Nancy Lopez, former professional golfer and businesswomen. Lopez rose through the golfing ranks despite facing discrimination based on her Mexican-American heritage. During her career she was named Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Today Lopez operates Nancy Lopez Golf, which specializes in women’s golf equipment.

10. Deborah Yow, Athletics Director – North Carolina State University and Sandy Barbour, Athletic Director – UC Berkeley. Yow and Barbour oversee athletic programs within the Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12, respectively, and they are on a short list of women who manage programs with automatic BSC bids. Intercollegiate athletics is a business that weaves its way into professional sports, which fits in well at Augusta National.

 

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Is Today’s London 2012 Olympian Tomorrow’s CEO?

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This post originally appeared on Forbes.com on August 9, 2012 

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games is officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad.

However, 2012 games have been nicknamed “The Year of The Woman.”

Fifteen years ago twenty-six countries did not have women competing at the Olympics. Four years ago the number dwindled down to three countries. Finally, in 2012 for the first time in history every participating country has both male and female athletes.

For the United States, 2012 is the first time in its history that more female athletes (269) are competing than male athletes (261).

Today these Olympians are breaking world records and representing their countries on the largest athletic stage. Tomorrow they will break down barriers in the boardroom and use their world-class athleticism to make a significant contribution in society.

Why are athletes more likely to succeed and thrive in the workplace over their non-athlete peers?

It is because sports develops and rewards skills valued by employers. To become a champion on the field it takes discipline, confidence, drive, passion, and mental toughness. These same skills allow athletes to enter the workforce and lead others while engaging with a diverse set of peers (Betsey Stevenson, Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports 23-24 (Nat’l Bureau of Econ. Research, Working Paper No. 15728, 2010)).

Studies have shown that participation in athletics is directly correlated to significant long-term health, educational and economic benefits for women.

“When one compares people with similar educational opportunities, family backgrounds, measures of intelligence and self-esteem, the annual wages of former athletes are, on average, seven percent higher than non-athletes. Similarly, athletes get almost half a year more education than non-athletes,” said Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, Professors of Business and Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Moreover, according to Stevenson and the National Women’s Law Center, “An increase in female sports participation leads to an increase in women’s labor force participation down the road and greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly high-skill, high-wage ones.

Ultimately, playing sports has a positive impact on employment outcomes and women’s economic security. A 2002 report by Oppenheimer/MassMutual Financial Group demonstrated this result. Of the 401 businesswomen surveyed, 82% played organized sports and the lessons learned on the playing field contributed to their success as executives.

The countless women using the lessons of teamwork, confidence, and leadership in the workplace is largely due to the long-term impact of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funds and ensures equal opportunity in education for all students, from kindergarten through postgraduate school.

According to the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), Title IX has increased female participation in sports exponentially. In response to greater opportunities to play, the number of high school girls participating in sports has risen tenfold in the past 40 years, while six times as many women compete in college sports. As a result, over the past forty years major gains in female participation in the area of math, science, business, and athletics has shown that girls and women have both the interest and aptitude to succeed in these fields – without detracting from opportunities for males.

Recently, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), espnW, and the Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) honored forty women who have made a significant impact on society after participating in a high school or college sport in the forty years since Title IX was enacted.

The 40 For 40 honorees included accomplished women in the areas of arts & entertainment (Ellen DeGeneres and Queen Latifah), business (Beth Brookeand Meg Whitman), STEM (Dr. Sally Ride), medicine (Dr. Dot Richardson), government/service (DrCondoleezza Rice and Dr. Susan Rice), journalism (Robin Roberts and Christine Brennan), and Sports (Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm).

According to 40 For 40 honoree  Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young and #100 on Forbes Most Powerful Women, women comprise roughly 50% of the workforce and yet are only 3% of the CEOs in the United States. Brooke asserts that more women deserve to be in leadership roles, which will cause policies impacting women to change.

Through sport women have the requisite skills and training to compete in the workforce and become the CEOs of tomorrow AND today. Now women must be given the opportunity to excel and advance into these roles.

For more information about 40 For 40 visit the Women’s Sports Foundation or check out this complete honoree list (Appearing in alphabetical order)…

1.    Val Ackerman – Sports; Collegiate Basketball; First president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

2.    Cynthia Breazeal – STEM and Academia; High School Track, Swimming, Soccer and Tennis; Founder and Director of the Personal Robots Group at MIT Media Laboratory.

3.    Christine Brennan – Journalism/Media; High School Tennis and Field Hockey; Award-winning print and broadcast journalist who is the most widely read female sports columnist in the nation.

4.    Beth Brooke - Business; Collegiate Basketball; Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young and named one of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women.

5.    Ann Cody – Nonprofit; Paralympic and Collegiate Wheelchair Track & Field; Director of Policy and Global Outreach for BlazeSports America. Member of the International Paralympic Committee’s governing board.

6.    Ellen DeGeneres – Arts and Entertainment; High School Tennis; Comedienne and talk show host.

7.    Jean Driscoll – Sports; Collegiate Wheelchair Basketball and Paralympic Wheelchair Racing; Served as the national spokesperson for the ASPIRE project from 2001-2003.

8.    Nancy Dubuc – Media; Collegiate Crew; President of Lifetime Network and History Channel. Top ten in The Hollywood Reporter Most Powerful Women in Media.

9.    General Ann E. Dunwoody – Military; Collegiate Tennis and Gymnastics; First female commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division and first female four-star general.

10. Lynn Laverty Elsenhans – Business and STEM; Collegiate Basketball; CEO, Sunoco, and named one of Forbes 50 Most Powerful Women (2011).

11. Tina Fey – Arts and Entertainment; High School Tennis; Award-winning writer, producer, actress, comedienne and bestselling author.

12. Julie Foudy -  Sports; Collegiate and Olympic Soccer; Advocate for women’s and children’s rights, including Title IX.

13. Irma Garcia – Sports and Academia; Collegiate Basketball; First and only Hispanic female to head a NCAA Division I athletic program.

14. Alice Gast – Academia and STEM; High School Track & Field; President, Lehigh University.

15. Jodi Gillette – Government and Civil Service; Collegiate Basketball; White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs.

16. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – Government and Civil Service; Collegiate Squash; United States Senator and two-term Congresswoman from New York. Advocate for empowering women.

17. Mia Hamm – Sports; Collegiate and Olympic Soccer; Played on four NCAA Championship teams, two World Cup Championship teams and two Olympic gold medal teams. Helped found first professional women’s soccer league.

18. Flo Hyman – Sports; Collegiate Volleyball; “National Girls and Women in Sports Day” was posthumously established in recognition of her contributions to growing sports for girls and women.

19. Dr. Kristina Johnson – STEM, Academia, Business, and Government/Civil Service; Collegiate Lacrosse and Field Hockey; Holds 43 patents. CEO, Enduring Energy.

20. Jackie Joyner-Kersee -  Sports; Collegiate and Olympic Track & Field; Ranked among all-time greatest female athletes in the world.

21. Michelle Kwan – Sports; Olympic and World Champion Figure Skater; Sports ambassador for Special Olympics, member of the President’s Council on Fitness.

22. Queen Latifah - Arts and Entertainment; High School Basketball; Actress, singer, author, and production company owner.

23. Kathy Levinson – Business; Collegiate Basketball, Field Hockey and Tennis; Managing Director for Golden Seeds, a national network of angel investors dedicated to investing in early-stage companies founded and/or led by women.

24. Ellen Kullman – Business and STEM; Collegiate Basketball; Chair and CEO, Dupont, and ranked as Forbes fourth most powerful woman.

25. Mary Bono Mack -  Government and Civil Service; High School Gymnastics; Seven-term Congresswoman from California and avid advocate for sports and physical activity.

26. Dr. Sandra Magnus – STEM; Collegiate Soccer; Astronaut on crew of final Space Shuttle mission.

27. Linda Mastandrea – Law; Paralympic Track & Field; Attorney and leading advocate for persons with disabilities; member, legal committee for International Paralympic Committee.

28. Brigadier General Loretta Reynolds – Military; Collegiate Basketball; First female commander at Parris Island and one of only two active female generals in the Marines.

29. Dr. Dot Richardson – Medicine; Collegiate and Olympic Softball; Executive Director and Medical Director of the National Training Center.

30. Dr. Condoleezza Rice -  Government/Civil Service and Academia; Figure Skating; Former U.S. Secretary of State and Stanford University political science professor.

31. Dr. Susan Rice -  Government and Civil Service; Three-sport High School Athlete; Current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

32. Dr. Sally Ride – STEM; High School and Collegiate Tennis; First female astronaut.

33. Robin Roberts – Journalism/Media; Collegiate Basketball; Renowned broadcast journalist and anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and ESPN’s “In the Game with Robin Roberts.”

34. Dr. Irene Rosenfeld - Business; Collegiate Basketball; CEO of Kraft Foods.

35. Mary Shapiro – Government/Civil Service and Law; Collegiate Lacrosse and Field Hockey; U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair.

36. Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz – Academia and Military; Collegiate Sailing; First female leader of a US military academy.

37. Pat Summitt - Sports; Collegiate Basketball; Played basketball during the enaction of Title IX. Her success as all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history with Tennessee basketball team expanded recognition and opportunities for women in basketball.

38. Jill Vialet – Nonprofit; Collegiate Rugby; Social entrepreneur recognized as part of Forbes Impact 30 list for Playworks, an organization devoted to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.

39. Meg Whitman – Business; Collegiate Lacrosse and Squash; CEO of Hewlett Packard and former CEO of eBay.

40. Venus Williams – Sports; Tennis; Four-time Olympic medalist and seven-time Grand Slam tennis champion who helped lead a successful effort to gain equal prize money for women at Wimbledon.

Plus Four More Honorary designees include:

  • Sue Enquist – Sports; Collegiate Softball; Former UCLA Women’s Head Coach and espnW Advisory Board.
  • Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Law; Collegiate and Olympic Swimmer; Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation. Leading Title IX expert and advocate.
  • Cindy McConkey – Media; All State High School Basketball and Track & Field; Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Scripps Networks Interactive. First female reporter to cover Southeastern Conference football.
  • Kathy Payne – Media; High School Tennis champion and team captain; 2012 Chair of the WICT Board and Vice President, Content Acquisition with Cox Communications.
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U.S. Women Make History At The 2012 London Olympics

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If you have not heard by now, there are more U.S. women competing at the 2012 London Olympics than men (269 women and 261 men).

Title IX doesn’t exist on the international stage, but without Title IX most (if not all) of the women competing wouldn’t have had the chance to participate in sports to begin with.

Here’s ABC News’ tribute to the female Olympic athletes…

 

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Title IX At 40: Where Would Women Be Without Sports?

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“Title IX at 40” conference hosted by the SHARP Center for Women and Girls, an interdisciplinary research center founded by the Women's Sports Foundation and the University of Michigan.

If you ask Laila Ali, former world champion boxer and president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, she will tell you that she knows where she wouldn’t have been – and that’s in trouble.

Ali candidly shared her journey to the boxing ring during a keynote address at the Title IX at 40: Progress and Promise, Equity for All conference hosted by theSHARP Center for Women and Girls and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Ali is the daughter of the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, and many would guess that she grew up surrounded by countless sporting opportunities. That’s to the contrary. Instead, she lived in a household that lacked the structure and as a result she made her own rules. This translated into bad grades, bad choices, and a three-month stint at juvenile hall.

It wasn’t until Ali turned 18 years old that she saw women’s boxing for the first time. Instantly, she was excited about the idea that women fought and eventually gathered the courage to get into the ring.

“Boxing shaped me into the woman that I am today. I never experienced what it felt like to play sports or better yet to win,” Ali said. “Where would I have been without boxing? I wouldn’t be me.”

Ali retired from boxing undefeated and has since taken her fighting skills outside of the ring. Today she has joined forces with the Women’s Sports Foundation in its battle to keep Title IX alive and enhance the lives of girls and women through sports.

Title IX and the Women’s Sports Foundation

Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments to the 1964 Civil Rights Act mandates that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

In short, Title IX ensures equal access for both men and women in federally funded education programs and activities including sports.

According to Amy Berman, enforcement director at the Office for Civil Rights, US Department of Education, there were eight times as many men as women playing intercollegiate sports in 1971; and at the secondary level there were roughly twelve times as many men as women playing high school sports.

Billie Jean King founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974 to tackle these disparities. At the onset, the foundation served as advocates for Title IX and women in sports. It also primarily focused on making sure women had access to sports and that there was compliance with the legislation.

With the passage of Title IX and the dedication of organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation, there have been dramatic increases in women’s participation in sports. For example, in NCAA sports, women’s participation has increased sixfold since Title IX was enacted, and at the high school level it has increased tenfold. (Source: Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education)

Despite Title IX’s positive impact, the Women’s Sports Foundation continues to battle stereotypes and misconceptions about what it means to have women and girls participate in sports.

One of the most common misconceptions is that Title IX has led to a decrease of men’s participation in sports. The truth is that men are participating more in sports than they were 40 years ago.

In 1971-1972, there were 170,000 male athletes in NCAA sports. In 2010-2011, there were 253,000 male athletes in NCAA sports, which is a 48% increase. Today there are 191,000 female NCAA athletes, which has women at a 43% participation rate even though there are more women in college today than men.  At the collegiate level, men’s participation numbers continue to exceed women’s participation in both the raw numbers and the proportion to enrollment. (Source: Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education)

At the high school level, the participation numbers rose from 3.6 million in 1917-1972 to 4.5 million male athletes in 2010-2011. In 1971-1972, there were 290,000 girls participating in sports, and in 2010-2011 3.1 million girls participated in sports. However, girls are still 41% of the participation rate and the boys are making up 60% of the athletes. (Source: Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education)

The other myth surrounding Title IX is that men’s sports are being cut at the expense of Title IX. According to Berman, the government accountability office found that of the 948 post-secondary institutions that added sports between 1992 and 2000, 72% of those did so without cutting men’s or women’s teams. Berman and the Office for Civil Rights believe that the goals of Title IX can be accomplished without cutting men’s teams.

Title IX at 40 and Beyond

This year Title IX turns 40 years old, and participation in sports has been attributed to increased self esteem and academic achievement, and decreased pregnancy and dropout rates for women and girls.

Additionally, and the impact of Title IX has spread beyond athletic programs receiving federal funding. Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, notes that Title IX was never intended to create professional athletes. However, in terms of the participation and commercialization of sports, proficient athletes are coming out of high school and college, and becoming Olympians or professional athletes.

Olson has seen a positive shift in the coverage and marketing of women professional athletes and leagues like the WNBA. She believes that fans connecting and developing relationships with individual players will play an important role in the future of women’s professional sports.

Many women’s lives would have looked very different but for Title IX and sports. Dr. Bernice R. Sandler, senior scholar at the Women’s Research and Education Institute in Washington DC and widely known as the godmother of Title IX, said “Title IX is probably the most important law passed for women and girls in Congress since women obtained the right to vote in 1920.”

As we look back at the last 40 years and there is much to celebrate, and still there is much to be done.

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

 

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