Women in Sports Management discuss their struggles and successes

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What do the senior director of guest experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the president and COO of the Indiana Fever, the NCAA vice president of women’s basketball championships and the event and program manager for the NFL have in common?

They are all women.

The four women with those titles—Marcie Ahern, Kelly Krauskopf, Anucha Browne and Audrey Becker—were the speakers for the “Understanding the Challenges for Women in Sport and Business” panel discussion on Thursday, Oct. 6, in the UIndy Health Pavilion’s R.B. Annis Theatre.

The discussion was sponsored by UIndy Department of Kinesiology and the Professional Edge Center, with Associate Professor of Kinesiology Jennifer VanSickle as the emcee. VanSickle shared several facts, including that women hold fewer than nine percent of the management jobs in intercollegiate athletics and major United States companies. Then she turned the conversation to women in the sports industry.

Each individual on the panel spoke about her journey to her current positions covering how she started out and how she became successful in a male-dominated industry. Each also talked about how she dealt with others telling her that she might not have the ability to do something and her own self-confidence, as well as about who her mentors are and why mentoring others is important.

Browne offered a great deal of advice based on her experiences and what she has witnessed in her career in the sports industry but said she hoped that what students really took away was the idea that they can make a career in the sports industry if they desire.

“You should go for what you want,” she said. “If you really want to work in the area of sports, don’t let people tell you [that] you can’t do it. Just keep trying—volunteer and outwork people.”

After the panelists addressed various questions that VanSickle had prepared for the discussion, guests were able to ask the panelists questions. A notecard had been placed on every seat, so guests could take notes or write down a question they came up with during the discussion.

Junior exercise science pre-physical therapy major Melissa Huff was one of the roughly 100 students who came to listen to the panel. Although she was not intending to pursue sport management as a career, she said the panelists’ advice was still something she could use.

“It wasn’t so much their struggles or journey that stuck out to me, but how they balance their time,” Huff said. “Not only making time for family, but still finding the time to do your best at your job, I think that’s important.”

While the women did speak about balancing their personal and work lives, the majority of their conversations focused on holding positions in companies or organizations that had always been more dominantly male. Browne has worked in the sports industry for more than 20 years and said that she has witnessed a growth in opportunity for women.

“Women have been involved in the sports industry for a while, but you are now seeing more, in larger numbers, and that’s where you start to see change,” she said. “As women start to emerge in positions of influence, they can change the career trajectory for other women. I’ve seen more women becoming athletic directors in Division I, II and III and holding positions that were typically held by males.”

Browne said she also has seen that growth happen here in Indianapolis, because many sports organizations, such as the NCAA office where she works are thriving in the city.

“It’s a fantastic sports town,” Browne said. “Around 1983 or 1984, Indianapolis put on the National Sports Festival. It was kind of like a junior Olympics, and it was an opportunity to really showcase this city. I think it was really kind of the beginning of this growth in sport here. With great minor and major league teams also, it’s just a really great sports town.”

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