It’s time for another edition of Infographic Friday, so in honor of the World Series, here are a couple of World Series themed infographics to enjoy. And of course, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants!
News and opinions on the business side of sports
It’s time for another edition of Infographic Friday, so in honor of the World Series, here are a couple of World Series themed infographics to enjoy. And of course, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants!
Today’s post is courtesy of guest blogger Neda Tabatabaie.
Back in 2005 when I got my first job in the Sports Industry, the NHL had just gone through its first lockout. One year without hockey….I really don’t know how Canadians survived! After the lockout was over, MLSE hired 100+ people within a few months, many of whom were new to the Sports Industry. As part of the transition into the organization, we had “training camps”, basically classes on different topics relating to the business and the industry. Our COO at the time, Tom Anselmi, held A Business of Sports Training Camp, which was one of my favourites. At the time, a lot of people used to question whether sports is a business and Tom’s camp covered three areas that every business needs: business model, strategic planning and leadership. I’m not going to get into the details of the camp here, I just want to touch on what make sports like other business and what makes it different.
What I personally love about sports, beside the competition on the ice, court, pitch and the field, is its impact. There is nothing like the look of a little kid when they meet their sport’s idol. I got the opportunity to visit the Sick Kids Hospital once with the Toronto Raptors and I will never forget the reception from the parents and the kids….for a few moments they got to forget about their problems. Sports also brings people together, we saw that after the Boston Marathon bombing and this past week in Canada.
Like any other business, sports business has products:
Sports also have customers: season ticket buyers, casual fans, broadcast viewers, broadcast and corporate partners, community partners, website visitors and social media followers.
Sports business also has brands. Each team is a brand, just like Coca Cola is.
Products, brands, customers, revenues and expenses, debt, lenders and capital costs, people, policies and processes…that’s what makes a business. Sport is a business.
But at the same time, sport is different than any other business. Why?
1. Brand avidity and passion of the fans: No other industry has consumers that are so emotionally invested in them. Sports fans live and breathe their teams. Have you ever
seen people with red wigs and face paint next to the Coca Cola shelf in a store? Coca Cola Tattoos? Grown men in body suites taunting the Coca Cola delivery men?
2. Product quality is inconsistent: My former President at MLSE (Richard Peddie) used to always say that hotdogs taste better when the team wins. Unlike Coca Cola which tastes the same no matter when or where you buy it, product quality for a sports team is always different. Budgets and sales targets are set based on the predicted success for the year. These days more and more teams are using analytics to forecast, set goals and in many cases even dynamically change ticket prices on a day-to-day or even an hour-by-hour basis (similar to airline ticket prices), but the inconsistency of the product is another data point that needs to be factored into the equation.
3. Team dynamics: The sport product is very dependent on the team and there are many hard to measure softer factors that affect the team, like the team and coach’s sensitivities and rules, dressing room dynamics, media scrutiny and in some cases player’s personal situation. There is also the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which the teams have to adhere to while trying to run their business. For example, there are only a handful of times that you can demand the full team to attend an event at the same time. Another rule is that the players need to be available to the media after the game (at least in NHL and NBA) or they will be fined for not talking to the media. Just imagine having a horrible day at work and having to do media interviews as you are trying to go home.
Every business wants to win, but unlike other businesses the sports business has two measurements of winning: on the playing field and off the playing field. Believe me the latter is much easier than the former!
If this is a topic that interests you, I recommend picking up “Dream Job” by Richard Peddie. Richard’s book covers some great lessons on the sports business, leadership and some inside gossip. My signed copy reads: “Neda, you taught me about CRM!”
Neda Tabatabaie is Vice President, Best Practices at KORE and is responsible for Consulting Services. Prior to joining KORE, Neda was Director, Business Intelligence and Digital at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) overseeing CRM, email marketing, research, analytics and digital for the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Marlies and Toronto FC. You can follow her on Twitter at @NedaData.
There is a current story in the college sports world where former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden does not like the fact that Condoleeza Rice is a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. I read this quote yesterday on CollegeFootballTalk.com:
“If the selection committee wants to get it right, and find the most knowledgeable people about the sport of football, go get people who played the game and preferably coached the game,” Bowden said at Monday’s Knoxville Quarterback Club meeting, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “… But just because she likes to watch football doesn’t necessarily mean she knows anything about football.”
This actually reminded me of other conversations I’ve had with sports business personnel that are looking to hire for their departments, where they specifically mention that they want someone with sports experience. You’ll also see this on almost every job description on any team or league website. I understand this desire for industry background, as it can be quite valuable depending on the role, but overall, I think in our industry, we can also fall victim to this approach in a way that limits our potential performance.
Now I’m not saying that I’d want to hire someone without a sports background to be a head coach, but that is because the applicant is unlikely to have the skills necessary for the job. However, in most other positions, whether it’s sales, marketing, finance, customer service or analytics, the relevant skill set can be developed, and often times further developed by someone who has worked outside of the sports industry. My day-to-day background is more in the CRM, database and digital realm, and I know teams sometimes struggle to find the right new hire in these roles. However, if you expand your search outside of sports, there are lots of highly qualified candidates in this area. I’ve seen great sales representative come from financial services, excellent customer service staff come from telecommunications and top brand marketers come from retail.
Now you may say the Condoleeza Rice example falls more in line with choosing a coach than a sales representative, but I disagree. The goal of the CFP selection committee is to take an overall set of performance data, evaluate the performers and come to a collective decision. This is a complex process, which involves more than just understanding of football. There are plenty of coaches and football personnel involved in the committee that have the requisite skills to evaluate the more intricate components of the on-field product. However, many of those individuals will have differing opinions, some perhaps inadvertently biased. The skills that you need on this committee are related to receiving complex and sometimes incomplete information from multiple perspectives, evaluating the arguments and helping to identify a solution. Now that sounds a LOT like what Condoleeza Rice has tremendous experience with from her political background. And I would go one step further in saying that because she does not have a football background, her decision process is even more likely to be objective, something I think everyone would agree college athletics needs a little more of.
In the last several years, we’ve seen and will continue to see the sports world go from an “old-fashioned, this is how we always do it” type of business to a modern, sophisticated industry like any other. Our willingness to look towards non-traditional applicants with rich skill sets that just happened to be developed outside of sports is just another way to advance that evolution.
I’m always on the lookout for new, out-of-the-box ticket promotions, so when I got this email campaign from Rutgers, it definitely peaked my interest.
Essentially, if you purchase a ticket at the “UWin” price for the first non-conference men’s basketball game, you get a free ticket to the next home game, and you can continue to get free tickets to each subsequent non-conference game as long as Rutgers wins.
Historically, Rutgers men’s basketball has not been a very competitive program, so this is an interesting way to drive interest in these early season games. From a pure revenue perspective, there is a chance that if the team performs well, they could be “leaving money on the table.” However, the momentum they’d get both from the team performance and the enthusiasm from fans that get to attend more games for free could generate a lift in ticket sales later on in the season. Additionally, several of these games are during the school’s winter break, which typically leads to lower attendance, so this could help during that window of time. If this initial offer goes well, but they lose during this first month of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try this again for the final two weeks of the non-conference schedule.
I don’t think you’re likely to see a campaign like this from a professional sports team, but there are variations that could definitely be applicable. Baseball teams could do this for some of their lower-priced seats over the course of a single homestand. Basketball or hockey teams could do this for preseason games, or maybe specifically for youth tickets in certain lower-yield sections of the building. Finally, the offer could always be for a discounted ticket after a win instead of a free ticket.
It’s time for another edition of Infographic Friday. Today’s entry comes to us directly from Facebook who created it in honor of Cristiano Ronaldo reaching 100 millions fans on their platform. Ronaldo is the most followed athlete on Facebook, and this infographic does a great job demonstrating just how massive that audience really is (e.g. could fill Portugal 10x over) and some of the demographic details. Click on the infographic to read the original post on media.fb.com.
It’s time for another edition of Infographic Friday. Today’s entry comes to us from GeekWire who documented the massive growth in digital media that ESPN has experienced over the last year. Beyond just the record volume of unique visitors, I think the most impressive component is how an average minute generated more consumption of ESPN digital content than an average day generated for other major sports television networks.
What happens when two friends who both work in sports business start talking about a controversial sports media topic? You get the dialogue below between myself and Brian Connolly, a former MBA classmate of mine and founder of Victus Advisors. Here is our take on ESPN’s suspension of Bill Simmons.
Brian: First of all, let me preface this debate by saying that I’ve never been much of a “respect authority” and “toe the line” guy. There’s a reason I started my own company! So that side of me always gets a kick out of a public figure challenging the powers that be.
Russell: I’ve always liked Simmons, but this wasn’t challenging authority, this was flipping it off. He comes off way too full of himself, like a petulant child. What did he think would happen when he starts cursing and screaming about a media partner? It crossed the line from a media member stating an opinion to unprofessional behavior and crude accusations.
Brian: However poorly executed, I think his goal was to call out ESPN on their awkward/conflicted relationship with the NFL. He even said in his rant that suspending him for speaking the truth about Goodell would only make ESPN look even worse. And he might be right about that based on the online reaction so far from the general public and other media outlets.
Russell: Other sports media outlets are certainly trying to take advantage and make ESPN look worse by saying they suspended him because he called Goodell a liar, when I think they really suspended him for the manner in which he did it and how we challenged ESPN. He wasn’t “speaking the truth” – he was ranting an opinion and openly criticizing his own company in a very public manner. In what company or business does that person NOT get suspended or even fired?
Brian: But doesn’t it seem like the vast majority of the general public thinks he was quite clearly speaking the truth about Goodell? Even ESPN’s own “Outside the Lines” reported recently that four different sources told them that Rice gave Goodell a truthful account that he struck his fiancée, despite Goodell’s repeated claims otherwise.
Russell: I just think there is a huge difference between sharing an opinion and “telling off” your boss and business partners in a public forum. He could have shared his opinion without getting suspended. It was the manner in which he did it that put him at fault.
Brian: I think he wanted to get suspended, though. He wanted a public debate over ESPN’s conflict of interest when it comes to the NFL. I think a lot of people are just getting more and more tired of the for-profit news model where there are clearly several corporate agendas that come before honest-to-god reporting and accountability. The disconnect between our media giants and public opinion/perception seems to be rapidly expanding.
Russell: It’s great that he wants to voice out against conflicts of interest, but I’m sure he also wants ESPN to keep funding Grantland. If he wants “purity”, he can quit and go do something on his own.
Brian: I do agree with you on that last point to a certain extent. Simmons certainly had the opportunity to start Grantland on his own, but he chose to take ESPN’s guaranteed money and promotional platform. I’m sure he knew the trade-offs. It’s almost like he needs to push the boundaries and get himself suspended every once in a while so he can tell himself he’s not “selling out”!
Russell: Yep, he wants the ESPN financial engine. Not just for Grantland, but also for his “30 for 30” film series.
Brian: At least we can agree on that!
One of the benefits of running this blog is finding out about new, creative and effective partnerships right when they happen. So moving forward, I will occasionally publish a recap-style post to highlight these deals. Thanks to the brands and properties (and their PR agencies) for always keeping me up to speed!
Super Kids-Super Sharing Project
Public and private schools in the greater Phoenix area are teaming up with the National Football League, the Arizona Cardinals, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, the Salvation Army South Mountain Kroc Community Center and Verizon for a Super Bowl project that puts books, sports equipment and school supplies into the hands of local children in need. The project, called Super Kids-Super Sharing, has been implemented in Super Bowl host communities for the past 15 years and has made hundreds of thousands of books and pieces of sports equipment available to underserved children.
Super Kids-Super Sharing gives local students an opportunity to be involved in the excitement of Super Bowl and “recycle” items they no longer need. The program also promotes NFL PLAY 60, the league’s youth health and wellness campaign, by sharing sports equipment among children in the community. Area schools are being recruited now to join in this effort. Participating schools will ask their students to gather up gently used or new books, sports equipment and school supplies from home and place those items in collection boxes at school. Most school collections will begin in early January.
As part of Super Kids-Super Sharing, used cell phones and equipment will also be collected for Verizon’s HopeLine program. HopeLine from Verizon collects no-longer-used wireless phones and accessories and turns them into support for domestic violence organizations nationwide. Through HopeLine, Verizon has donated more than 180,000 phones with voice and text service and awarded millions of dollars in cash grants to partner agencies.
Public and private schools are welcome to take part in Super Kids-Super Sharing. The NFL provides posters, flyer templates, instructions and other materials to make this project easy to implement. Individual schools may register by emailing the name of their school, address and contact information to NFLenvironment@aol.com. Interested schools should register at their earliest opportunity.
Super Kids-Super Sharing is one of several projects created by the National Football League and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee to respond to the environmental impact of Super Bowl events and to leave a positive, “green” legacy in the host communities. Tens of thousands of pounds of unserved prepared food from Super Bowl events will be distributed to local shelters and community kitchens. Solid waste from Super Bowl events will be recycled and leftover décor and construction materials will be donated to local organizations for reuse and repurposing. A number of tree planting projects are being developed to help create additional green space in local communities, and University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of Super BowlXLIX, and several other major NFL Super Bowl event venues will be powered using “green energy” to reduce the climate impact of Super Bowl events.
Penn Mutual, United World Sports and NBC Sports Group Announce Title Sponsorship of Collegiate Rugby Championship
The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, United World Sports and NBC Sports Group have announced a three-year title sponsorship for the Collegiate Rugby Championship, the largest Rugby 7’s collegiate rugby championship in the United States. The Collegiate Rugby Championship, which takes place at PPL Park in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, will now be called “The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship.” In addition, Penn Mutual has committed to be the title sponsor for The Varsity Cup, the national collegiate championship of the 15-a-side rugby format. The Varsity Cup, which is played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, will now be named “The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup.”
Penn Mutual is committed to work with UWS and NBC Sports Group to establish the Collegiate Rugby Championship as an iconic world-class Philadelphia-based sports event, on par with national championships in other major sports in the United States. According to Jonathan First, President of United World Sports, “This sponsorship establishes rugby, which is now the fastest growing sport in America, as a powerful corporate marketing and branding tool – one with the same cache of soccer, appealing to an American market comprised, in part, of business leaders and decision makers. We congratulate Penn Mutual on their forward-looking decision, and we’re eager to help them connect their brand with our audience of devoted fans, dedicated players and quality institutions from around the country.”
“Our sponsorship is part of a long-term business-building strategy to extend the Penn Mutual brand to consumers, financial professionals, and student athletes,” says Eileen McDonnell, Penn Mutual’s Chairman, President & CEO. “Like rugby, Penn Mutual enjoys a long and esteemed history–167 years of service to our policyholders. And, like rugby, we are more cutting edge than ever, having doubled our market share since the financial crisis of 2008. Rugby provides a clean slate for us to share our optimistic view of how life insurance not only protects, but also allows people to do more in life and leave a lasting legacy. The sponsorship also gives us the opportunity to attract new talent by gaining exposure to the student athletes of major national colleges and universities. All of us at Penn Mutual are excited about the possibilities afforded by The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship and The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup.”
Rugby 7s returns to the Olympic Games in 2016, following an 84-year hiatus, where the United States will defend its gold medal from the 1924 Olympics in Paris. The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship is part of a nationwide effort to build American rugby talent in preparation for the Olympics. In the past three years, the Collegiate Rugby Championship has produced 15 players who have gone on to play for the U.S. National teams. In the 2014 Collegiate Rugby Championship, 20 of the top colleges and universities competed for the title, including Penn State, Notre Dame, Texas, Michigan, Navy, Ohio State and reigning national champion, The University of California Golden Bears. Beginning in 2015, a portion of Penn Mutual’s sponsorship investment will be awarded to the winning team, the proceeds of which will be used to build the team’s rugby program on-campus.
For its participation, Penn Mutual will tell its story to millions of Americans through TV exposure on NBC, NBCSN, Universal Sports Network, Comcast SportsNet, in-event branding, online and digital marketing, and through localized and national promotions and events throughout the year.
“We’re thrilled to have Penn Mutual join our partnership with United World Sports in support of the Collegiate Rugby Championship and The Varsity Cup,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports Group. “We believe Penn Mutual’s support will aid in the growth and popularity of these events, and the sport of rugby across the U.S.”
Topps and Bloomberg Sports Create Partnership to Revolutionize Baseball Trading Card Statistics
The Topps Company, Inc. and Bloomberg Sports formally unveiled a partnership to provide custom-designed advanced analytics on select trading card offerings for 2014. The new-look analytics have been featured on the backs of Topps Major League Soccer cards, which launched earlier this season, and content will be showcased now on the back of the 2014 Bowman Chrome Baseball, which releases at the end of September, and other select 2014 Bowman trading card products.
“This is a great way to marry the traditional collector with a new audience looking for something different in trading cards, be it baseball or other sports,” said Bill Squadron, STATS EVP and head of Bloomberg Sports. “Our analytic work in a wide range of sports can provide a whole set of unique and compelling data for fans to discuss and enhance their enjoyment of the game, and there is no more elite platform to deliver that data on than a hallmark brand like Topps.”
“Every year we strive to find new ways to engage both the casual fan and the ardent collector, and we feel that the partnership with Bloomberg Sports accomplishes that. These revolutionized card backs has given us another unique point of engagement that is both eye-catching and educational and fun for all,” said Zvee Geffen, Topps MLS and Bowman Brand Manager. “Analytics are an essential part of today’s conversations in every sport and this new content will document that emerging trend, and the new data we are providing will help enhance the experience for all.”
The just-released Bowman Chrome baseball card sets will feature six different analytical templates created by Bloomberg Sports, including spray charts that document veteran power hitters’ home run locations and strikeout pitchers’ pitch selections. For MLB prospects, statistics will include organizational rankings and comparisons to minor league averages. Among the stars featured in 2014 Bowman Chrome are MLB rookies Jose Abreu, George Springer and Masahiro Tanaka, veterans Mike Trout, Yu Darvish and Bryce Harper, and prospects Byron Buxton and Kris Bryant. The set also features autographed cards and an assortment of colorful parallel cards.
For some detailed examples, please view the photo gallery below.
Today’s post is courtesy of Tanner Simkins (@TannerSimkins) via our partnership with the Columbia University Graduate Program in Sports Management.
One of the year’s most intriguing sports business innovations has been Fantex and their investable security offerings linked to the performance of athlete-entertainer brands. Since their launch, Fantex has tremendously increased their awareness – albeit not yet top of mind to the average fan – but now more than a disruptive niche. Their roster of athletes now includes San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis (prospectus), Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel (prospectus), and more recent additions of Cincinnati Bengals WR Mohammed Sanu (prospectus) and Chicago Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (prospectus forthcoming).
“We think they are young, dynamic individuals and we think there is a lot of potential there, so it’s exciting” Fantex CEO Buck French told me in our recent interview.
Currently, only Vernon Davis and EJ Manuel have completed their offerings and are trading on the Fantex platform. Other assets like Sanu and Jeffery are in the IPO stage. Quick note on how it works: the athletes benefit from an advance – a one lump sum payment for an agreed-upon percentage of their discounted future earnings on and off the field. The offering then breaks down into tracking shares via an investable security traded on the Fantex platform. Fantex through investor activity and other measures raises the capital for the brand contract and Fantex then retains the balance. The investor benefits like in any traditional investment through positive return.
As Fantex grows, they are committed to working with a range of athletes – established stars and emerging players alike. For example, Manuel, Sanu, and Jeffery, are only in their 2nd, 3rd and 3rd seasons respectively. “We think individual [investors] will want to support the brands of different players at different stages in their careers and [our platform] gives them the opportunity to do so.” So in the sense of the normal stock market, “Davis is more of a GE, predictable, sustainable” said French. Continuing with real stock comparisons – Sanu and Jeffery are growth stocks, which means higher risk, higher reward. “That’s why we find this fascinating from a brand perspective…it’s going to be great to watch how it all develops” added French.
Considering their total brand, the newest additions may not yet be household names, but that’s potentially valuable as Fantex expands their roster – there now is a security for you regardless of risk profile. French reminds us that when “someone does become a household name, from an investing perspective, the return profile has changed. It all depends on how people build out a portfolio. Our goal is to work with guys who have potential and because they’re at different stages of their growth curve from a brand perspective, we can acquire that future cash flow stream at different rates than we otherwise could have.”
For example, the weighted average discount rate on Sanu is higher than both Vernon Davis and EJ Manuel. The higher the risk profile, the higher the discount rate. Potential investors should look at it like, “Ok yeah, he is less known, more risk, but more potential upside,” said French. They go hand in hand.
The brand building company
The key is the off field branding. Fantex is interested in long term propositions with athletes that have potential for a sustainable brand. “We aren’t looking for someone who is just a great football player or potentially a great football player. That obviously creates more awareness. But really, we’re looking for that unique individual that we believe we can build a sustainable brand around.” The effort to generate continued brand income is extended long into the Fantex athlete’s post playing career. Their goal is to look for individuals beleived to have untapped potential and then help them realize it. “That’s really our business. That’s how we’ve ended up with people like Vernon Davis, EJ Manuel, Mohamed Sanu, and we’ll continue to look for others. “
The business model is designed to increase the branding associated with athlete entertainers. “Ultimately everyone’s interests are aligned” French told me. “If we can generate awareness and interest with the brand then the brand can activate on that awareness. This turns into income, which then flows into Fantex. This is all positive for everyone.”
Fantex does thorough due diligence prior to selecting an athlete to bring aboard. The vetting process begins with their business development team that narrows down the sport, then both cursory and background checks are conducted on a short list of target athletes. Everything from interview skills to digital presence is taken into account. “We then look at them as a player: their success, their injury history, and all those type of things. Then we have a committee that is made up of different functional areas of the business chime in. We have our General Counsel, our CFO, our quantitative team, and we have our sports specific domain experts in on it. We review the target athlete entertainers and decide whether this is someone we would be interested in moving forward with” added French.
Then the negotiation process takes place – this is where Fantex pays the athlete a lump some to own a percentage of their future earnings. After an agreement is made “we then go and work with them. It’s actually very healthy for us because that becomes the next phase of getting to know the individual at a deeper level. So as opposed to what we read and ascertained, we now can understand who they are and who their team is. That’s an important component.”
There is a significant barrier to entry given with respect to gaining the SEC’s support like Fantex has. But the space is continuing to blend with fantasy sports, real-time fan engagement, and other creative ways to activate around instant information – so although a direct competitor doesn’t exist it goes without saying that loose alternatives even as a marketplace compliment will inevitably appear. “You don’t have a market unless you have competitors. I never worry about that. How you beat competition is executing properly.” French said. “We have a great team here and as we continue to build out and create our deeper relationships both in the sports industry, to an investor base, to financial services industry, I imagine someone will attempt to do it.”
Today’s post is courtesy of guest blogger Christy King.
I attended the inaugural Sports Business Journal Game Changers conference in New York last year by happenstance. I was frankly shocked that they got the conference content so right. The approach was respectful. The conference addressed the sensitive, emotional topic (for some of us) of women in leadership roles, without pandering. To use the oft-quoted women-in-sports metaphor, they did not “pink it and shrink it.” I am happy to report that this year’s second annual conference content was just as good addressing timely issues, and presenting current facts and figures.
Interestingly, I noticed a new theme pop up this year that I have been pondering. Several speakers mentioned that the conversation about women in sports, and the sports business, should happen in front of a gender-neutral audience. The assertion was women already know that we should be respected, included and promoted, and that businesses make more money when a spectrum of people are included in leadership roles.
In other words, having these conversations in front of an audience made up of 98% women was “preaching to the choir.” Due to my experience, I find myself uncomfortable with this idea.
Women working in male-dominated businesses are often seen as ground-breakers and pioneers, but many of us old enough to have watched our mother’s struggle – and fail – to excel professionally, have a secret weighing beneath our awareness. We learned to go along to get along, and in so doing, we perpetrate a disservice to both the men we work with, and any women trying to break into new territory.
My professional path has led me to be isolated from other women. Not only have I spent most of my career in news and sports, my expertise is in technology. While I truly celebrate that women have made significant inroads into parts of business, those parts are usually in areas like human resources, accounting, public relations, and marketing. At 46 years of age, I am still far and away one of a tiny minority of women represented in engineering, computer science, TV production and distribution technologies.
Do I want men in leadership positions to have the facts and tools to understand how business will improve by sharing leadership positions with women? You bet I do.
But I also worked in early childhood education long enough to know that the most profound changes happen for people during so-called teachable moments: Those seemingly small instances where an individual can see someone struggling with an idea, and seize the opportunity to give them a piece of information or insight that will codify their understanding.
The thing to remember here is that the facts being shared about women’s positive influence on businesses are still new to some of us. I am absorbing these facts and marveling at the idea of using this information to influence the minds and hearts of our fellow men. Conferences like Game Changers can be an opportunity for someone like me to internalize the latest facts, figures, attitudes, and trends. Only when these ideas have gelled can I go back into “my world” to look for those teachable moments and take action.
There is a personal reason why I think this kind of grassroots, evangelical style culture change is a real and useful idea, and gives context to my perspective.
When Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In was published, I resisted reading it. Despite my long-time frustration being marginalized throughout my career, I was unable to pick up her book and crack the spine. I found myself both embarrassed and deeply thoughtful about what that meant.
Eventually, I noticed that a bright young woman who worked for me was exhibiting some of the same frustration I remember feeling at her age. I felt at a total loss of what to do to help her, other than commiserate and lamely assure her that she would learn to feel less frustrated. Then it dawned on me what I just said. I had told her that she would learn to subsume her frustration with more emotional grace. As the cool kids say, “OMG! WTF!”
Out of sheer desperation, I finally picked up Lean In and still struggled to stick with it. It was an easy read, but my whole body was resisting every word. What was going on?!
I gave up reading it and started listening to it in audio book form. I feel asleep one night listening, and woke up hours later, sitting straight up in bed. I finally got the notion I was fighting: I feel guilty.
What I came to understand is that it doesn’t matter that I am not driven to be “at the table.” When a segment of any society is marginalized, the entire society suffers. Leaning In is not an option for any woman right now, it is a requirement for the success of all humankind.
I have always had the skills and expertise to make the companies I work for better, but when they don’t ask for my participation in decision-making, I don’t participate. Men assume that they are required to participate; women assume they have to be invited. This situation is not only bad for the company, but bad for every young woman who comes behind me. How can I expect young women of today to want to join me in the joys of technical exploration if I don’t fight to make it possible for them to fully participate in the decision-making process and power structure?
So we come back full circle to the Game Changers conference and whether it is better to push the content into another conference that makes it more palatable? / easier? / logical? for men to attend or, to continue focusing on an audience of women who I believe still desperately need the language, tools, and information to put strength, straighter spines, better ideas, and power back into our individual lives; spread the seeds of change in our workplaces and communities.
I for one, am perfectly willing to admit that I could use a few more years of Game Changers conferences focused on an audience of women sharing the skills I missed during so many years of trying to fit in with the boys, and get really comfortable with being uncomfortable being seen and heard.
Christy King is the CTO and Co-Founder of the startup mobile video company VidLasso, and serves as the VP of Technology R&D for the sports promoter UFC. She is a recent transplant to New York City where she can be found wandering the subway tunnels ever hopeful she will find her next meeting destination on time. You can follow her on Twitter at @broadtechbiz.
RECAP: #SBWeek 2014 has come and gone, and I am so appreciative to all of our local hosts and attendees for their support. Here are some great stats that show the success of this year’s events:
- 6 host countries
- 31 host cities
- 1,500 attendees
- 1,600 #SBWeek tweets
- 4 million timeline deliveries
- $6,000 raised for UNICEF
Looking forward to #SBWeek 2015 next year!