Women in the Business of Sports — Then and Now

By WISE National

Sue Rodin giving a presentation at a WISE Event

In 1993, Sue Rodin was confronted with a salary-related issue she believed was gender-based. Seeking guidance, she found very few women to turn to for advice. The experience inspired the informal gathering that grew into WISE, today nearly 20 chapters strong. Below are excerpts from a conversation with Rodin, who was asked to reflect on gender diversity in the industry.

On the Sports Landscape Then and Now…

I'm glad there is an annual report card that Richard Lapchick produces where we see which organizations are doing a better job when it comes to gender and race - in terms of hiring and leadership positions. We have a long way to go, but the optimist in me wants to believe we're making progress. If we all keep at it and help one another, ultimately, I believe the landscape will improve for women and minorities, and the industry will be better as a result.

On Women in the Business of Sports Today...

The fact there is so much interest in starting WISE chapters across the country indicates to me that professional women want to connect with others in the field and to improve their stature professionally. There's a real thirst. Also, there's such a proliferation now of college sports management programs, and a lot of women are pursuing these courses.

On Recognizing Female Role Models in the Industry...

Every year when we receive nominations for WISE Women of the Year, it's exciting to see how many women are worthy of recognition. It takes a long time to cull through so many deserving individuals.

On Male Champions and Supporters...

In our earliest years, one of our secondary tag-lines was that we were about women helping women in the business of sports. It was almost like a musical refrain. I came to realize, though, that it was not entirely accurate. There were and are a lot of men who support us, who are really engaged; they've been mentors in our WISE Within Program they've green-lit commitments to us, and they want to help. From that point on, it has been we're about people helping women in the business of sports.

On WISE's Next 25 Years...

I'd like to see WISE really have an impact on enhancing the number of women in leadership positions. That's the impetus behind the WISE Executive Leadership Institute with Tuck Executive Education at Dartmouth. It's very important to us that we get women - credible, deserving women - in the uppermost echelon of the org chart, in the C-Suite. We believe that when that happens, it will open doors for other women, and the women who currently sit at the top won't be a novelty anymore.

Read WISE founder Sue Rodin's reflections on the group's journey from informal gathering to leading voice and resource for women in the business of sports.