#WinWithHer Campaign to Increase Career Development Opportunities for Women and Girls in Sport
Fifty years after Title IX dramatically increased athletic opportunities for girls and women, athletes are still fighting for equal standing on multiple levels despite how long the landmark legislation has been in effect.
With that work still to do, the USA Basketball Foundation has identified the month of March, Women’s History Month, as a time to bring a new initiative to the forefront: #WinWithHer.
“We really want to be able to provide scholarships for women and girls who have an interest in careers in sport to attend the Women in the Game Conferences and to be a part of other programming geared toward our pillar for championing women,” said Jennifer Lynne Williams, who became the USA Basketball Foundation’s chief development officer in July.
As Williams knows quite well from her own career path, basketball and other sports teach young athletes life skills that easily translate to the business world. While every young hoopster wants to be the next Sue Bird, A’ja Wilson or Chelsea Gray, there are only so many roster spots at the most elite levels.
Most players find themselves pursuing lines of work in other professions. Williams, for example, pursued a career in television after graduating from North Carolina, where she was a four-time letter winner and two-year captain of the women’s basketball team. She then went the administration route and worked in college athletic departments, first on the athletic director path, then onto a fundraising career.
The #WinWithHer campaign seeks to open doors to the girls of today to be the leaders of tomorrow, both on and off the court. That includes attending USA Basketball’s Women in the Game Conference being held in Minneapolis in conjunction with the NCAA Final Four from April 1-3. The foundation is already providing assistance by sponsoring registration fees for high school and college students and young professionals in the Minneapolis area to attend.
“The primary focus is really going to be on providing access and full scholarships for females to attend the Women in the Game Conference,” said Williams, noting that each full scholarship is worth about $1,500 to cover travel, room and board. “This initiative is going to drive our efforts to have people attend the Women in the Game event that's going to take place in September. We really want to be able to have women and girls from all over the country be able to travel to attend that event.”
Currently, each Women in the Game Conference is one day, but Williams would like to see that grow along with continuing to attract big name speakers to tell of their experiences in sports business.
“Representation matters,” Williams said. “Sometimes you have to see it to believe that you can achieve it. Among women who hold C-suite positions, 94% of them are former athletes. So, to me, it’s a direct correlation for women and girls who need to be made aware of those opportunities that are available. And I think sometimes they only see coaching as an avenue or maybe being an administrator, but they don’t think that you can have a career and be a referee. You can be on the media side, you can be a content creator, you can be a coach in a male sport.”
Williams cited Edniesha Curry as one example. Curry attended the 2018 Women in the Game Conference in Los Angeles. Now an assistant coach with the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, she played in the WNBA in 2003 and 2005 before playing for various international teams through 2009. Curry took the coaching route overseas, then became an assistant for the University of Maine women’s basketball team from 2015-17, then the men’s team in 2018, before the Blazers hired her in August.
“You can cross over, but you need to see women in those roles to be able to understand how they achieved success — their path, their journey — and that’s what Women in the Game is trying to do,” Williams said. “We want to enlighten young professionals, high school-aged girls and women who may be looking at changing careers, even those who may be playing pro sports right now who want to look at life after sport, how they get into these careers and the opportunities that are available.”
What all this comes back to is helping to create equity and opportunity in sports, no matter the level.
“Let’s use sport not only to develop skills for how girls perform on the court, but to sharpen those skills that are going to translate into what they do in their respective professional lives as well,” Williams said. “Let’s continue to invest in women, let’s continue to grow this game and let’s continue to educate women on what opportunities are available in sport.”
To donate to the #WinWithHer campaign, click here.
Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, Calif. He is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.