Pass the Mic: No More Bare Minimum with Meghan Chayka
March 22, 2021By: Ashley Docking
This week on the Hot Mics Podcast, Devan and I hosted Meghan Chayka, tech entrepreneur and founder of Stathletes. Devan opened the interview by reassuring Chayka that we’re not here to talk to her about what it’s like to be a woman in the sports industry, but instead her actual job. Weird right?
Chayka conceded, “Been there,” and all three of us rolled our eyes, chuckled and kicked things off.
The real gag is that we get asked this question all the time. I instinctively clear my throat, tap the mic, and proceed with the campaign speech that every woman in the sports landscape has used some iteration of. A sermon on why women, specifically BIPOC women, are typically overqualified for their roles, while insisting that a diverse perspective is imperative to properly serve your audience which, by the way, isn’t as one note as you may think.
“Something like 45% of (sports) fans are women,” Chayka said on Hot Mics, “and (that audience) want to see people who look like us and focus on things that are important to us and not just (on) the “pink nights.”
Don’t even get me started on the pink! To me the “pink nights” refer to the singular, one-off events that are fleeting. I’m talking about March 8th when men pass the mic and shine the spotlight on women but then revert to the status quo at midnight, like some unceremonious Cinderella.
When I think about “pink nights” I think about the people in those decision making rooms who said, ‘Yes, let’s make them feel included by turning jerseys and hats into sugary confections that glimmer as bright as an Ardene’s store diamond prior to showering’ and thought that was enough. I need names.
“And I love fashion but they’re ugly too right?” Chayka quipped, referring to the pink gear teams from every league sell, “So you’ve not only offended women but now fashion.” Chayka went on to say, “We (as women) want to engage and understand and learn the sport and get to know our favourite players and know about our favourite teams.”
As a result the bare minimum is no longer satisfactory. A lone gender stereotype jersey won’t cut it. That’s where Stathletes and emerging sites like AnalyticsLacrosse.com can have an impact.
Now, analytics have been a stress point in sports for the last 10 years. Ex-jocks calling people with well researched takes, ‘Nerds!’. The old heads proclaiming, ‘You can’t measure the will to win!’ and Excel masters insisting that they can predict a person’s performance in crunch time when it matters most.
Back and forth we go, when really the answer is probably somewhere in between and one lens can inform the other.
That’s where it gets exciting! The existing data isn’t a tool solely for professionals, coaches, or GMs anymore. It has served as an entry point to fans, women and men alike. Those who want to be well informed, participate in the explosion of sports betting and fantasy sports or build a foundation to pursue careers in sports, no matter their athletic background.
“Tech in general too,” Chayka says, “Not just the narrow data side but all the different ways. Fan engagement and on-ice performance is changing. I think there are so many gaps for highly educated people who don’t have the traditional, ‘I played ten years in the NHL and I’m working my way up,’ path.
The results driven nature of the tech field perfectly aligns with athletics in that success and performance are quantifiable from a data perspective. “I don’t think there’s a cap on what you can do, especially as a (woman) entrepreneur you kind of blaze your own trail.”
Chayka has created her own world where traditional rules and misgivings are obsolete, “The space I’m in and (with) the strategy and teams I’ve built it’s less about whether I qualify for the job, do I have enough years of background or experience? You don’t get asked that in tech, if you’re executing.”
It’s the very thing success in sports revolves around.
So here’s to one day getting there on the media side as well. Where the cast of characters you see and hear accurately depict the world around us. When quotas to be filled are less about gender and race and more about insight and experience, and the interviews are about your role, perspective and expertise instead of having to explain your value and giving advice to other women on how to persevere.
You can listen to the full Meghan Chayka interview on Hot Mics with Devan Kaney and Ashley Docking and catch previous episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes are available every other week and if you’re enjoying the content like, subscribe and share!
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