For the past several years, I have written blogs about women in sports and their entry into the mainstream. You can find them here. I wasn’t writing about women who have competed or participated in women's sports but rather, those women who have attained positions in what has traditionally been the men's bastion. These women have become refs, managers, or in some cases, even players in the male arena.
Last week I wrote a blog entitled Nothing Proves The Importance Of Culture Than When Two Of Them Collide. It was all about my experiences in making a big acquisition and then realizing that words have different meanings to different people, especially when applied to a company’s culture.
In this blog I am going to describe another “culture” experience. This also covers corporate cultures and why success in one organization is not what brings success in another.
The gap between what we say and what we do
We know that what we say and what we mean are often far apart. The gap is something that comes from our brains moving far faster thinking than our voices can communicate those thoughts. You might want to take a look at Byron Reese’s new book, Stories, Dice, and Rocks That Think: How Humans Learned to See the Future—and Shape It. My wife recently interviewed Byron on her podcast, On the Brink with Andi Simon.
Photo courtesy of The New York Times. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Multiple news outlets, including the NY Times, published an announcement on July 7th, 2022 that the Las Vegas Raiders (sorry, I still think of them as the Oakland Raiders) hired Sandra Douglass Morgan as their President, the first African American woman to hold the role in N.F.L. history.
Why is this important for leadership?
The hiring of Ms. Morgan is important for three reasons:
First, in a male dominated sport, until recently it went against the established norms to hire a female senior executive. Three of my previous blogs talk to this point:
- Two Incredible Women Who Are Succeeding In A Man's World
- Women "Firsts" Shatter Stereotypes, Look Forward
- No Women Coaches In The NBA? Yeah, Becky Hammon Changed That.
Second, Ms. Morgan is a person of color, and while the Rooney Rule (expanded this year to include women) doesn’t appear to be working in hiring head coaches of color, something does appear to be working in the front office with the hiring of a minority CEO.
Third, women handle problem-solving differently than men. Perhaps this will work well for both the Raiders and the National Football League.
All the press are celebrating the agreement by The United States Soccer Federation to align the Women's and Men's Soccer teams' pay and distribution of prize monies. It is time, isn't it?
The Federation has reached landmark collective-bargaining agreements with its men's and women's national teams. The terms create pay parity, aligning the men's and women's teams’ pay and creating a unique mechanism to share the prize money coming from their respective World Cup competitions. This deal recognizes that regardless of sex, people are people, and they should be paid for performance, not for gender.
Photo courtsey of Alana Holmberg for The New York Times
Last week my wife Andi Simon wrote a blog about a pioneering early entry in the women’s rights movement, Christine Grant, who took a leadership position during the early days of Title IX. In 1973, she became the athletic director of women’s sports at the University of Iowa, one of the first women in the country to hold this title. (In those days, there were two athletic directors: one for male athletes and one for female.)
The partners of Simon Associates Management Consultants are committed to helping young entrepreneurs, and particularly women entrepreneurs, take their ideas and turn them into successful business ventures. As part of our effort, in 2018 we started the Simon Initiative for Entrepreneurship through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St Louis.
Photo courtesy of Jake Pollock/NY Times
In soccer. In football. In basketball. Now in ski patrols. More and more, women today are breaking barriers and smashing glass ceilings in fields that traditionally have been men-only, not just in sports but across all disciplines: business, politics, medicine, law, tech...the list goes on.
Which causes me to ask the question: Is one of the reasons women are finally making strides in male-controlled fields and changing the status quo the fact that men themselves are changing too? The February 11, 2021 New York Times article, "A Surge of Women in Ski Patrols, Once Nearly All Men," speaks to this point. It describes how "as the number of women in ski patrols has increased, so has acceptance that the service, a network of volunteer and professional organizations nationwide dominated by men for decades, is finally catching up to the times."
Photo courtesy of Julio Cortez/Associated Press
In the NFL, women are finally breaking through
In the February 4th issue of The New York Times, there was an article entitled, “These Women Were N.F.L. ‘Firsts.’ They’re Eager for Company.” It discusses the many “firsts” in the NFL from team CEO (Amy Trask of the Oakland Raiders) to coaches (Maral Javadifar, an assistant strength and conditioning coach, and Lori Locust, a defensive-line assistant, both for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) to referee (Sarah Thomas who officiated Sunday’s Super Bowl) to the front office (Callie Brownson, chief of staff for the Cleveland Browns). And yet for all the shattering of glass ceilings, these groundbreaking women long for the day that being females in previously male-only roles in the NFL will be no big deal. Said Amy Task, who in 1997 became the Oakland Raiders chief executive and the first woman of that rank in the NFL, “What is really going to excite me is when this is no longer aberrational or when this is no longer something that’s noteworthy.”
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
Last week there was big news concerning the NFL’s Super Bowl. Sarah Thomas — the first woman to officiate a major college football game, the first to officiate a bowl game, the first to officiate in a Big Ten stadium, the first full-time female official in NFL history and the first to officiate an NFL playoff game — has been named to the referee crew for the 2021 Super Bowl, having officiated NFL games since 2015. Talk about a glass ceiling being smashed! This puts a woman squarely in the arena of what has traditionally been a men-only sport.
As Thomas told Steve Wyche of NFL NFL Total Access, “If you grade out at the top of your game, and that’s what I want to do, every game I want to be at the top of my game, if that puts me #1 to work a Super Bowl, I want to earn it and I want to be there.”
Thomas has definitely earned it and definitely deserves to be there. For women officials everywhere, it’s about time!