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WISE Champion Breaks Glass Ceiling

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Toronto Raptor's Executives and Staff (left to right): Sarah Chan, Manager of Scouting, Africa; Masai Ujiri, President and Alternate NBA Governor; Shelby Weaver, Director, Basketball Advancement; Tenneya Martin, Coordinator, Team Operations, Raptors 905; Alex McKechnie, Vice President, Player Health; Jennifer Quinn, Director, Media Relations; Tim Chung, Executive Assistant; Melanie Danna, Coordinator, Player Development and Community Relations; Teresa Resch, Vice President, Basketball Operations and Player Development (Photo credit: WISE Toronto / Leanne Bernardo)

On Jan. 21, WISE Toronto hosted their Be a Champion Anniversary Celebration event to mark the chapter's one-year milestone. The sold-out event featured keynote speaker and 2018 WISE Champion Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors president and alternate NBA governor. “Is there anybody in this world that did not come from a woman?” he asked, captivating and inciting laughter from the audience of 350-plus women and men in the crowded ballroom.

Champion, Change Agent and Role Model

Inspired by all the women in his life — his mother, wife, daughter and colleagues — Ujiri is one of Canada’s biggest champions of women on and off the court. In a male-dominated industry, he is seen as the change agent and role model needed in business and in sport. He broke the glass ceiling with the Raptors’ organization, growing the team from one to 14 women during his tenure to date. He took a pause while explaining this growth and asked his female colleagues in the room to stand. His goal: to recognize, empower and thank each of them for their immense contributions. 

“Women were not hired because we wanted to hire women. They were hired because they are the best at what they do, men included, and I am damn proud of that,” said Ujiri. To him, women were instrumental in bringing home the Toronto Raptors’ first-ever NBA Championship title and trophy, noting his goal is that, “one day, there is a woman general manager in the NBA. We have to reach that.” 

Diversity of Thought is Integral to Success

Ujiri’s message struck a chord with attendees as women's success in business should not be front-page news or celebrated, it should be expected. WISE member Nicole Lee noted, “Eventually conversations like this aren’t needed and that it’s the norm to have successful female business leaders to look up to every day.” 

He shared the following closing remarks:

  • A winning mindset is about finding a way, no matter the odds. Always compete and conquer.
  • A great man can only shine with a great woman beside him.
  • Diversity of thought is integral to success. Women in the Raptors’ organization push decisions forward to foster a winning culture.
  • Women are smart, talented, thoughtful and capable. Give them opportunity and they’ll flourish and thrive.