From Rolodex to National Network: A 25-Year Journey

By WISE National

Sue Rodin giving a presentation at a WISE Event

In 1993, a small group of women motivated by a lack of career support for females in the business of sports organized a gathering of their peers at a New York City restaurant, planting the seeds for Women in Sports and Events. Twenty-five years later, WISE has established itself as the leading resource for women in the industry with nearly 20 chapters across the country. Below are excerpts from a conversation with founder Sue Rodin, who was asked to reflect on the journey.

On Organizing and Promoting That First Meeting...

This was back in 1993, so if you can turn back the hands of time, realize there was no social media; we had no email. We all went through our Rolodexes, and we collectively sent a flyer to any female we knew in the business, and the tone was very casual, very informal. We didn't even ask for RSVPs, so we showed up that morning not knowing if it was going to be the five of us, or maybe 10 or 15 people. Sixty women showed up - 6-0 - which was stunning.

On Moving Forward With the Group...

All we did from that moment on was try to meet once a month, keep it social, and just meet as many other women so that the next time there was an issue or a need for someone with specific skills, maybe you would know somebody or know somebody who knew someone else. You would extend your network and, in the process, make everybody feel more comfortable and confident and really better at their jobs.

On WISE's Early Efforts to Educate Members...

We had a woman named Linda Lindquist speak, and Linda was a member of the very newsworthy female sailing team that competed in the America's Cup in the mid-'90s. She said her mother always told her that you don't need to know everything, but you need to know who to ask. I think that was a very important point for our members. Sometimes women feel they have to be perfect; they have to know everything. No, you really don't. That's the beauty of having a network.

On the “WISE Works” Tagline...

Our tagline is "WISE works," which we came up with for two reasons: because we wanted to identify ourselves as women who work in the sports field as opposed to athletes and also that WISE works, that the organization does help people. There are dozens and dozens of "WISE works" stories. Very often, it's, "So and so helped me get my next job," or simply, "I needed help with a project or I was confused with something at work, and this person helped me."

Read WISE Founder Sue Rodin's reflections on gender diversity in the industry »