Women’s roles in major sports on the rise

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | After a lengthy playing career in the WNBA, Swin Cash now holds a key position in the male-dominated NBA.

by Jillian Decker | staff writer

April 23, 2022

For many years, the sports industry has been one that’s male-dominated. However, in recent years, women have come into the spotlight and are striving to make the sports industry not so one-sided.

In 1972, Title IX was introduced. The law prohibits sex-based discrimination in education. Women used to be overlooked in sports and did not have the support that males did.

Title IX changed that narrative, helping to ensure that women could belong and succeed in sports.

With Title IX’s 50th anniversary coming this June 23, female involvement in sports has increased dramatically. While most roles in sports are still male-dominated, that’s expected to change, given the growth and commitment from major sporting leagues.

Specifically, the National Football League has seen a rise of women working in the league. Per a study from The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport that was published in a February Women’s Health piece by Amanda Lucci, the percentage of women in different roles is growing.

In the NFL office, 38.8% of the workforce was made up by women in 2021, while 25.3% of teams’ senior administration roles were held by females.

These numbers are not the largest (nor is the fact that only 3.1% of women occupy CEO and/or president positions in the league), but it’s a step in the right direction.

Strides have also been made on the field. After becoming the first full-time female official in league history in 2015, Sarah Thomas was honored as the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl when she worked the 55th edition of the contest in February 2021.

The National Hockey League has also seen a rise in female employees, especially in higher positions.

According to the NHL Players Association, there are roughly 100 women in hockey operations, player development or player health and safety roles.

After competing for Team USA during her playing career, Krissy Wendell-Pohl joined the Pittsburgh Penguins as a scout last November, becoming only the third woman to hold a scouting position with an NHL team.

Some sports, like football and hockey, still have work to do but are making strides in becoming more-inclusive environments for women.

On the other hand, sports like basketball have fostered a more-welcoming atmosphere for women for a longer period of time.

The WNBA, which was founded in 1996, has stood as a major professional league for women. The league has also received massive support from its male counterpart, the National Basketball Association.

According to Bleacher Report’s A. Sherrod Blakely, longtime WNBA star Swin Cash is now serving as vice president of basketball operations and team development for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

Cash sees herself as a “voice for the unheard.” According to Blakely, she used that voice to help former WNBA player Teresa Weatherspoon get hired by New Orleans as an assistant coach in November 2020.

Lindsey Harding, another player who enjoyed a lengthy WNBA career, is now serving as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Harding told Bleacher Report that she is grateful, but not yet satisfied with where things stand.

“We love it and appreciate the opportunities,” Harding said. “But as a whole we aren’t satisfied with where it needs to be. But we continue to take steps forward.”