Our History

WISE Through the Years

In 1993, a small group of women saw an opportunity to address a real need facing females working in sports business — career support. From an informal gathering in New York City that year, Women in Sports and Events has established itself as the leading resource for females in the industry, empowering women across North America with the professional network, tools and advocacy to excel.

From establishing the prestigious WISE Women of the Year Award to expanding chapters to opening doors to continuing education and leadership training, WISE has demonstrated impressive growth. Read on for milestones in our history, none of which would be possible without the strong commitment of our board, committee members, volunteers and valued members and partners across the country.


First Award Luncheon |

First WISE Chapter

WISE Women of the Year Luncheon 1995 Program Graphic

The first WISE Woman of the Year Award Luncheon inaugurates a tradition of recognizing outstanding women in the business of sports. Sara Levinson, head of NFL Properties, is the first honoree. Approximately 185 people attend the event at Madison Square Garden. Since its inception, the luncheon has been hosted annually in New York City. About the Award »

The first WISE chapter is founded in Washington DC.


New Luncheon Venue

WISE Women of the Year Luncheon 1996 Program Graphic

The WISE Woman of the Year Award Luncheon moves to the Waldorf Astoria. Approximately 300 people attend.

The WISE logo color is updated, changing the white to purple.


Newsletter | New Chapters

WISE Words, a print newsletter, is mailed to membership.

WISE chapters in Boston and the SF Bay Area make their debuts; the two chapters are later relaunched under new leadership.


More Women Honored |

New Chapter

WISE Women of the Year Award 1998 Program Cover

WISE expands its annual Woman of the Year Award to three honorees. Val Ackerman, Robin Roberts and Elizabeth (Eli) Primrose-Smith make up the first expanded class.

WISE Chicago is founded and later relaunches under new leadership.


New Logo |

Luncheon Moves to the Marriott

WISE Logo 1999

The WISE logo gets a makeover, with blue and red replacing the original colors of purple and white. It later wins an award and the colors are further refined to what it is today (pictured).

WISE Women of the Year Luncheon 1999 Program Graphic

The WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon moves to the New York Marriott Marquis, where it remains through 2017. Approximately 400 people attend.


WISE Incorporation

WISE is incorporated as a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization.


New Chapter

WISE Cleveland is founded.


New Chapters

WISE Atlanta and Charlotte are founded; Charlotte is later relaunched under new leadership.


New Chapter

WISE Los Angeles is founded.


National Board | New Chapter |

WISE Within

WISE transitions its New York City–based board of directors to the national level to focus on strategic growth for the entire organization; concurrently, the NYC Metro chapter is founded.

WISE Within logo

WISE establishes its WISE Within mentor program in New York, pairing midlevel professional women with senior executives. Since its inception, it has been expanded across chapters as a national signature program. More about WISE Within »


New Chapter

WISE Pittsburgh is founded.


WISE Champion | New President |

Career Resources

The WISE Champion Award is introduced at the annual awards luncheon to recognize a male executive who advocates for the advancement of women in the workplace. Read more »

Kathleen Francis (right), Sue Rodin (left), WISE logo poster in the middle of them

Kathleen Francis (right) is named national board chair and president. After 18 years at the helm, WISE founder Sue Rodin (left) assumes the title of chair emerita.

Career WISE logo

New features are introduced online at WISEworks.org to provide members with digital career resources. Concurrently, the CareerWISE national monthly e-newsletter is launched.


Website Relaunch | National Partners

WISE relaunches WISEworks.org with a renewed focus on career resources and to offer an improved platform for member engagement.

Coca-Cola, the NBA, ESPN, MLB, FOX Sports, the NHL and AEG logos

WISE announces its partnership with the NFL, the organization’s first-ever national partner. Over the next several years, the NFL is joined by Coca-Cola, the NBA, ESPN, MLB, FOX Sports, the NHL and AEG in supporting a variety of WISE’s professional development initiatives.


Nonprofit Status | Catalyst Study |

New Chapter

WISE receives 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status.

Catalyst logo

WISE partners with the global not-for-profit Catalyst on a study of women working in sports.

WISE San Diego is founded.


New Initiatives Launched |

WISE Women of Distinction

Women sitting around a table in a meeting

WISE augments its mentoring initiatives with the launch of Speed Mentoring Roundtables, an annual WISE Within national signature event.

WISE/R Symposium logo

WISE debuts WISE/R Symposium, the first event of its kind to focus solely on the personal and professional development of women in the business of sports. The annual all-day event takes a 360-degree view of working in sports and features high-profile leaders from across the industry.

WISE 20 years logo for 20th luncheon

WISE celebrates its 20th luncheon by recognizing four WISE Women of Distinction: Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East Conference; Christine Driessen, executive vice president and chief financial officer at ESPN; Barbara Paddock, senior vice president at JPMorgan Chase; and Judy Sweet, co-founder and board president of Alliance of Women Coaches.

Coca-Cola representatives on stage to receive an award

Coca-Cola joins WISE to establish the Rodin Scholarship for the professional development of female small-business owners. Recipients earn a partial scholarship to attend the WISE Executive Leadership Institute.

WISE Executive Leadership Institute logo in partnership with Tuck Executve Education

The WISE Executive Leadership Institute in partnership with Tuck Executive Education at Dartmouth is created. The benchmark five-day program brings together senior female executives for high-level training in effective leadership.


New Chapter

WISE South Florida is founded.


New Chapter

WISE Houston is founded.


New Chapters |

Website Relaunch

WISE Detroit, Greater Raleigh, Las Vegas, Twin Cities and Utah are founded.

Keyboard with a blue "Launch" key where the enter key normally is

WISE relaunches WISEworks.org with a more accessible platform and new content strategy

WISE & Work logo

WISE's national monthly e-newsletter is rebranded as WISE@Work.


WISE 25 Years | New Chapters |

New Luncheon Venue

WISE 25 Years logo

WISE celebrates 25th anniversary!

WISE Arizona, Tampa Bay and Toronto are founded.

Ziegfeld Ballroom

The WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon relocates to the landmark Ziegfeld Ballroom.


25th Annual Luncheon |

WISE Women of Distinction |

New Chapters

25th luncheon, recognizing five WISE Women of Distinction: Anita DeFrantz, Janet Fletcher, Lisa Murray, Michele A. Roberts, and Suzanne Smith

WISE celebrates its 25th luncheon by recognizing five WISE Women of Distinction: Anita DeFrantz, vice president at International Olympic Committee; Janet Fletcher, director, Olympics and sports marketing at The Procter & Gamble Company; Lisa Murray, executive vice president and global chief marketing officer at Octagon Worldwide; Michele A. Roberts, executive director at National Basketball Players Association; and Suzanne Smith, director and producer at CBS Sports. 

WISE DFW, Greater Orlando, Indianapolis, Memphis, Milwaukee, Portland and Seattle are founded.


New Look | New Site

New WISE logo

WISE unveils a new look and online experience. The brand refresh, done by the design agency Infinite Scale, aims to capture the passion, professionalism and energy of the WISE identity and the women the organization serves. Like before, the primary logo features the WISE acronym. Overlapping shapes in the “W” convey a sense of connection — the shared community among members and networking occurring across the industry — while breaks in the letter hint at Title IX. The new marks and pumped-up color palette are among the features members encounter on the revamped WISEworks.org, which was designed to elevate community building and support increased learning opportunities.