She’s Just a Girl. And She’s on Fire.

She’s just a girl. And she’s on fire. (Thank you, Alicia Keys.)

The fire in her eyes tells you there’s more inside.
The strength in her step says no one will stop her.
She is gentle in her heart, warm in her spirit and fierce in her passions.
She is a daughter , she is a wife and she is a mother.
She is a do-er and she is sincere in her actions.
She knows her role to be even more to them then she even knows of herself.
She carries on her shoulders the visions of the past and the hopes for the future.

Here’s a chance. A chance to inspire. To be the woman for the girl who holds her own strong desires.

Walk with swagger. Speak with passion. Act with good intention.
Let the women and stories of our past inspire you. Hold true to your responsibility to inspire those of the future.

If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for everything. Stand for this. Stand for us. Stand for them. Stand for yourself, for your passions, beliefs, dreams.

Own yourself. Fear nothing. See only beauty. Know only possibility. Question all obstacles. Accept only what you know in your heart is right and good.

Here’s your chance. Your chance to inspire. 


*Alex Mallen, October 4th, 2012*

Two-hundred and fifty of the most influential women (and men) in women’s sports in one room:

Agents. Media personalities. League representatives. Olympic executives. Sponsors and partners. Marketing execs. Brand and product decision makers. Coaches. Analysts. Researchers. Social media experts. Professional athletes. Olympic and Paralympic athletes…the list goes on.

For the third year in a row espnW hosted the Women + Sports Summit as an exclusive, invite only, event to bring together the top minds in the business of women’s sports to discuss the current market and the challenges and opportunities we face as a community. This was my first year attending, and I felt sincerely humbled to even be in the room with such accomplished individuals.

Female athletes have owned 2012. In London, the US women alone tied China for the most medals won at the Olympics. From the US Women’s soccer team winning gold to Gabby Douglas winning the women’s gymnastics all-around to Misty and Kerri earning a beach volleyball 3-peat, there were undoubtedly some of the most memorable moments of all time for female athletes over the last year. We have come far. But what does that mean? Where are we exactly? Where are we headed? And what does this mean from a global perspective?

The purpose of this three-day event was to dig deeper. Too often the conversation of women’s sports stops at the proverbial “leadership”,  “team building” and “hard work” outcomes of girls (and boys) who participate in sport. My intent is not to take away from these obvious positives. These are certainly important on a personal level for young athletes and time and again research as shown us that girls who participate in sports are more likely to finish high school and less likely to become pregnant during these precious years.

But there is a bigger picture here. In learning of espnW and their partnership with Hillary Clinton and the US State Department to launch the Global Sports Mentoring program, my perspective on my “why” of supporting women’s sports took a sharp turn. Seventeen women from around the world including countries such as India and Afghanistan, are currently being mentored by some of the top companies/executives in the world of sport including Under Armour, P&G, Nike and ESPN. The purpose is to educate these women in areas of the business of sports that interest them so they may take back to their countries the knowledge and confidence to start a movement. The program also supports the teaching of sport in various communities across the world through the building of relationships with local leaders to implement sports programs for girls, while maintaining cultural norms and expectations.

In countries where women are suppressed so much that they are deemed a liability to a family, what would it do to the society if girls and women had the right (and opportunity!) to play sports? What if sport taught them they are worthy of something? What if sport taught them they have an identity beyond a daughter/sister/wife/mother? What if sport laid the foundation to grow the confidence so that a woman might stand up for herself in her home, her community, her country? What if the skills a girl learns in sports are what allow her to have a voice and lead people? What if sport then caused more women in a community to go to school, get jobs and be productive members of their society? What if these women then become movers and shakers in politics and were able to create positive change on a national level? What if the change these women lead is toward equality for all? What if this equality lead to less oppression in other parts of the world? What if less oppression lead to less wars and misunderstandings between countries? What if giving girls and women across the world the opportunity and right to play sports…could CHANGE THE WORLD?

But in order to help change the world, we must support women’s sports at home. We must show the world how important it is that female athletes are of value to our society.
The challenges we face in growing the business of women’s sports is that the leagues, teams and “players”  need money to support their efforts to grow. In order to get money they need partners and sponsors. In order to get partners they need a size-able and measurable audience. In order to get a size-able audience… well if I knew this answer I would be leading the WNBA right now (although I am confident that Laurel Richie and her team will find the answer!)
Women currently represent 45% of NFL fans. 45%! Don’t tell me women don’t care about sports. We are fans. And when we are a fan of something, we are loyal to it. It’s in our nature.
But women don’t watch sport the way men do. Marketers can’t reach women the way they reach men. Women want to relate. Women want to hear the story behind the story. We want to connect with the challenges and struggles of athletes. We want to celebrate their wins with them after we know what they have had to do to get there. We want to be a part of the journey. And as consumers, we want to know that we are cared about and that our needs are being met…even while we cheer on our team.
Partners are now faced with the challenge to reach the female fan. Proctor & Gamble gets the current #1 spot in reaching women with the “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign that ran throughout the London games. I think I may have teared up during a couple of their spots myself… genius! Relatable, personal, caring… and about sports. Props, P&G, props!
Partners  of women’s sports and women’s sports leagues and organizations are also faced with the challenge to reach the male fan. I don’t have an answer for this but if I did I would quit my day job. What do men want? High level of athletic ability including but not limited to: Dunking, fighting, power, strength, home runs, concussion-esq tackles, etc. …and on the opposite end of the spectrum…they want to bring their daughters to the game to share the experience of sport with them.
Women’s sport organizations and partners certainly have their work cut out for them. But as women, as men, as athletes, as fans we all have the power to support their efforts. How can we do this?
- Mentorship: be someone who inspires girls and women to participate in sports and show encouragement and constant support for them.
- Support partners who support women’s sports: We must create a loyal fan base for the partners who invest and put their money where their mouth is so that they will continue to invest. Support these brands and prove that we have an audience and are worth their investment… we also have buying power. (To name just a few… P&G, CoverGirl, Secret, Gatorade, Lexus, Nike, Boost Mobile, Farmer’s Insurance).
- Watch women’s sports and take an interest in the lives of our female athletes: Every athlete has a story to tell that can inspire, uplift and educate us. Let these women share their story and be there to listen and share with others.
With action and a greater understanding of what a “Women Sports Movement” could do on a global level, we might all realize our support of women’s sports is more than just watching a game or buying a product. It’s encouraging a movement that could literally change the world.

Resources:
espnW
WISE
Women’s Sports Foundation
GoGirlGo
Department of State Global Sports Mentoring

Reposted with permission from Alex Mallen (President WiseLA)

2 comments
Hittingtheglassceiling
Hittingtheglassceiling

The ESPNW conference is an amazing concept in order for women to gain more support for their sport.  It was an amazing line up of athletes, organisations and media personalities guest speaking on panels.  In Australia, we have recently held an inaugural meeting to discuss the current issues facing women in sport, particularly, lack of media coverage and sponsorship money.  If you would like to read more about this similar Australian conference, check out my campaign, http://hittingtheglassceiling.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/the-way-forward/ which discusses the ESPNW conference as well.

 

Thanks,Debra