As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the National Lacrosse League reflects on its great fortune of being led by some of the most empowering women in business today. From the League’s front office, to the front offices of our eleven-member clubs, our female leadership is shaping the future of our league and the sports industry. Day in and day out, our female leaders provide our fans, players, staff with the tools and knowledge needed for success, as well as serving as role models for young women in sports across the country.
The National Lacrosse League has a rich history of women pioneering and leading the way. When Ginny Capicchioni signed with the New Jersey Storm in 2002, she became the first female in North America to sign with a men’s professional lacrosse team, the first female to play in a men’s professional lacrosse game and the first female to play for a men’s national team in any sport. In 2007, Denise Watkins purchased what is today’s Vancouver Stealth. A trailblazer for women in the technology industry as well as the NLL, Watkins is the sole female owner of a National Lacrosse League team.
Women continue to lead the way in the NLL today, through their various positions through the ranks. The women of NLL spend their days spreading the message of the NLL, closing multi-million dollar deals with new partners, and growing the fan base of NLL through large-scale fan events throughout North America. While the NLL celebrates women in sports leadership, we recognize that it is not the case everywhere, and know it is our responsibility to lead by example. As Amber Cox, Vice President of the New England Black Wolves, notes “The reality is that women still are fighting for equality in many organizations. It’s important for us – as women – to be great mentors to other young women who want to follow in our footsteps. In my opinion, there is nothing more important than providing a road map for the next generation of leaders.” The sentiment of her words rings true with her colleagues who agree that instilling strong values, strengthening the character and providing leadership is essential to moving leaders, especially female leaders, forward. As Lindsey Masciangelo Executive Director of Business Operations with the Philadelphia Wings adds, “Leadership is about influence and learning to bring others with you. It’s not about being better and being right all the time. I would tell young women to be someone that others want to follow and don’t lose sight of doing the right thing, even if it’s not always the easiest or most popular thing.”
Leading by example with character is a key for female leaders in any industry, just as much as finding their voice is, as Rebecca Kingsbury, Business Intelligence & Sports Analytics of the San Diego Seals mentioned, “I think something important to remember is that your opinions are valuable.” Her Seals colleague Sheri Mendon, Marketing, Promotions & Fan Development Director, added, “Don’t be afraid to share your ideas or opinions. I have seen so many women in this industry that are timid and afraid to speak up, but they end up having some great ideas. This is still a very male-dominated field, so it can be a little intimidating for women, but if you put in the hard work and don’t let fear get in the way, there is definitely a path available to women for leadership roles.”
While mentoring others, pitching new ideas and moving business forward are just a few of the responsibilities these women tackle every day, a common theme has lead them to where they are: Passion and teamwork. As Andrea Glieheisen, Vice President of Marketing & Partnerships for the Saskatchewan Rush described it, “A passion for sports. I thrive in a high-pressure environment and there is no feeling that even comes close to the excitement of a Rush Game Day. Watching all of our staff rally together, from the ticket staff representative to the mascot, we all play a role in putting on an amazing show for our fans.” While each woman has found their own unique path to the NLL, they all share and understand the impact passion and teamwork have on our League and the teams. It is what transforms a group of individuals into a community, it’s what drives a business to put in the effort and time needed to succeed. It is what creates great leaders and inspires the next generation. It moves every person in an organization to contribute and become a leader in their own right regardless of title, seniority, age or anything else. As NLL Chief Marketing Officer, Ashley Dabb reflects on the impact of these contributions to an organization, she references a quote from Robin S. Sharma, which she believes sums it up perfectly,
“Leadership is not about a title or designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.”
Today, we celebrate these women who inspire each other, their colleages, and the future generations. The Toronto Rock’s Director of Business Operations, Terri Giberson phrased it perfectly, “Celebrating women and hearing stories on this day will continue to inspire me and make me proud. I have two young daughters at home and I do everything I can to encourage their interests, answer their curious questions and have high hopes for them and the strong and confident women they’ll grow up to be. As International Women’s Day continues, I am encouraged by a future where my daughters will continue to be inspired by both women and men and that we may see a generation where the struggles for women push further and further into history and role models for boys and girls are established based on accomplishments and not gender.”