Advice for Women of Color from Women of Color in the Sport Industry

According to a report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), women of color accounted for only 6.8% of the total workforce in the sport industry in 2019, compared to 35.3% for white women and 40.7% for men of color. Moreover, women of color held only 4.3% of the leadership positions in the sport industry, such as CEOs, presidents, vice presidents and general managers. 

A recent panel of Sport Management graduates from the University of San Francisco shared lessons that they’ve learned, discussed strategies and resources that have contributed to their success, and examined the ways in which more inclusive workspaces for women of color can be created.

Find a mentor or advocate

A mentor can help you navigate the challenges and opportunities in the sport industry, as well as connect you with other professionals and resources. For Tara August, advocacy means “leaning into mentorship” and “actually connecting you with someone to ensure you get to the right place, are heard, and are seen as someone credible in the space.” August also reminded the audience that “people pay attention to you when you’re not paying attention, they will see things in you that you don’t – don’t be afraid of someone else picking up on a spark that you might be blind to, it could really be life changing.” Ryan Daniel shared an experience when she was asked to run a meeting by her manager: “I was freaking out, but she knew I was ready – she pushed me out of my comfort zone, and now I thank her every day for that one very terrifying meeting because now I know I can do it.” To find a mentor, you can reach out to people you admire or respect in your organization or network, or join a mentoring program or platform that matches mentors and mentees.

“It’s so important to see folks that look like you, or have similar experiences,” argued Tina Sturdevant ’12, who is Director of Talent Diversity & Inclusion at The Athletic and moderated the panel at the 4th Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference at the University of San Francisco

“If you don’t align with the company or organization you’re with, it’s okay to leave.” Erica Escalante ’19, Athletic Director at Moreau Catholic High School

For Ryan Daniel ’19, Associate Marketing Manager at the Golden State Warriors, representation means an environment that encourages authenticity, creates a safe space to bring ideas and be creative, and provides positive reinforcement: “My Senior VP is a mom. My VP is a mom. My Senior Director in a mom. My immediate manager is a mom. I know that’s not normal in the sport industry, but it’s an environment that encourages authenticity and provides incredible representation across our organization and the NBA.”

Build your network

Networking is essential for any career, but especially for women in the sport industry who may face fewer opportunities and more discrimination than men. Networking can help you expand your knowledge, skills, contacts, and visibility in the sport industry. Networking can also help you find new opportunities, collaborations, partnerships, and referrals. To build your network, you can attend events, conferences, workshops, and seminars related to your field of interest or expertise. You can also join professional associations, groups, or communities that cater to women in the sport industry or your specific niche, such as Women in Sports & Events (WISE) and Women in Sports Tech (WiST). You can also use social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram to showcase your work and connect with other professionals.

“We’re so thankful to the University of San Francisco. The diversity and the strength of this program, the networking, and the extent of alumni everywhere in the industry is special.” Tina Sturdevant ’12, Director of Talent Diversity & Inclusion at The Athletic

“I definitely don’t look like a stereotypical athletic director, but I can be an athletic director. Don’t be deterred by what you hear and see – you can be the first.” Erica Escalante ’19, Athletic Director at Moreau Catholic High School

Seek continuous learning

The sport industry is constantly evolving and changing, so it is important to keep up with the latest trends, developments, and innovations. “Be shameless about asking questions” suggests Ryan Daniel: “I’m in my fifth season and I am still asking questions, treating every day like a boot camp.” Continuous learning can help you improve your knowledge, skills, competencies, and credentials in the sport industry. Tina Sturdevant’s approach to overcoming the fear of being expected to know something is to ask her manager whether there is a preferred way to present something, or a project outline that is typically used, or how leadership would prefer to receive information. Continuous learning can also help you adapt to changing demands and expectations, as well as discover new interests and passions. To seek continuous learning, you can enroll in courses, programs, or certifications that are relevant to your field or career goals. Ryan Daniel pointed to the value of the numerous volunteering and internship opportunities she received during the University of San Francisco Sport Management program. You can also read books, articles, blogs, podcasts, or newsletters that provide valuable insights and information about the sport industry. You can also participate in webinars, workshops, or online forums that offer opportunities for learning and discussion.

“If you are looking for a title or position, start doing the work of that role before you’ve been given it, so that leadership can see you performing in the new role.” Tara August ’04, Senior VP, Talent Relations & Special Projects at Turner Sports

Showcase your achievements

Women in the sport industry often face stereotypes and biases that can undermine their confidence and credibility. Therefore, it is important to showcase your achievements and highlight your value and contributions to the sport industry. Showcasing your achievements can help you build your reputation, recognition, and respect in the sport industry. It can also help you attract more opportunities, clients, sponsors, or investors. To showcase your achievements, you can create a portfolio or website that showcases your work samples, projects, awards, testimonials, or media coverage. You can also update your resume or CV with your accomplishments and results. You can also share your success stories and best practices with others through blogs, podcasts, social media posts, or presentations.

“I have to constantly remind myself to celebrate our achievements.” Erica Escalante ’19, Athletic Director at Moreau Catholic High School

Pursue your passion

It is important to pursue your passion and find meaning and fulfillment in your work. Pursuing your passion can help you stay motivated, engaged, and enthusiastic about your career development. It can also help you overcome obstacles and setbacks that may arise along the way. To pursue your passion, you can identify what aspects of the sport industry interest you the most and align with your values and goals. You can also seek feedback from others who share your passion or have achieved success in the sport industry. You can also explore new opportunities or challenges that can stretch your potential and spark your creativity.

“I was so hard on myself! I always felt like I was in a race, but I am not racing anybody. It really does happen at your own pace at your own time, so I wish I was kinder to myself.” Ryan Daniel ’19, Associate Marketing Manager, Golden State Warriors

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