Recently, Forbes has published a list of the most influential women in sports. Professional athletes were not the only ones honored with a place on the list; in fact, the leading positions belong to the executives of numerous verticals of the sports industry, including media and holding companies, politics, collegiate athletics and leagues.
Women’s Contribution to Sports
The ages of these outstanding women vary greatly. The oldest woman in the list is a 72-year-old Billie Jean King, and the youngest one is a Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova. The majority of them are well-educated, having gained a Master, MBA or JD degrees. Despite some speculations about nepotism playing a great role in the women’s careers, all of them proved over the years that they deserved their positions.
Since these women represent a minority in this business ruled by men, many of them started their work under the direction of their fathers or husbands. Unfortunately, the career ceiling for women in the sports industry is noticeably lower than in other spheres. The general number of female heads of sports organizations is less than 40 out of the possible 467.
All women who were included in the list were able to overcome all the obstacles and rise to their positions, becoming the role models for many women not only in sports but other spheres as well. According to the CEO of The Women’s Sports Foundation, all of them should be celebrated for the progress that they triggered in the industry. The very existence of the list proves their contribution to sports. Many studies show that better business decisions are made when the leading board consists of both women and men. What is more, the primal goal of many females in sports is to sit at the head of the table; they do not intend to settle for less.
At the Top of the List
The first place was granted to the head of International Speedway Corporation, Lesa Kennedy. Being a member of the board of directors, she manages the multibillion NASCAR organization. Lesa is an heiress of the NASCAR’s founder Bill France Sr., so it is not surprising that the woman has reached this position. Despite family connections, Kennedy’s leadership skills work in her favor not only in managing the business but in helping other women. She mentored dozens of future female sports executives and was an inspiration to hundreds of other women, which became the main reason for placing her at the top of the list.
The second place was granted to Michele Roberts. This 59-year-old executive director of the NBPA became the first head of America’s major sports union, as well as the most recognized African American executive in the sport industry. She had started her lawyer career in the public sector in Washington, D.C., then turned to private practice and soon worked at a prestigious law firm.
In the next place on the Forbes list is the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, Christine Driessen. The woman has played an important role in valuable media negotiations and was responsible for the launch of ESPN2, ESPNEWS, and ESPNU. Driessen was also valuable in the deals with SEC, MNF, and the CPF. Most of foreign investment negotiations for ESPN were supervised by Driessen as well.
The fourth place is shared by the notable female tennis players, sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The sisters are the most famous professional tennis players, sharing an incredible number of Grand Slam titles (winning 28 finals collectively). Both Serena and Venus were ranked as number one players by the Women’s Tennis Association. As a duo, the sisters are an unstoppable force that has conquered female sports. Now the sisters appear to be the ambassadors for all female athletes, as well as being their inspiration. Their story showed that, no matter who you are and where you were born, you can reach success.
These are only four of the 25 most influential women in sports. The list also includes such well-known sports figures as Kim Ng, the co-owner of L.A. Lakers Jeanie Buss, Chief Marketing Officer of NFL Dawn Hudson and many others. All of their contributions cannot be underestimated, as being a female leader in the industry ruled by men is a great accomplishment.