Panelists discuss how to help grow women’s sports

Lois Elfman | 4/25/2019, 12:11 p.m.
“There is so much work to be done, you have to start somewhere,” said Jillian Svensson, executive director of SheIS, ...
Keia Clarke (l) of the New York Liberty and Kelle Coleman, head of industry partnerships and global events at Nielsen, both spoke about the continuing growth of women's sports Lois Elfman photos

“There is so much work to be done, you have to start somewhere,” said Jillian Svensson, executive director of SheIS, an organization launched in 2018 to promote and grow women’s sports and in turn empower women. The SheIS Collective includes leaders from a wide range of sports—from hockey to soccer to basketball to WWE—working together to break down barriers for women in sports.

Last week, CSM LeadDog, a global marketing agency, hosted a vibrant panel discussion about not only the state of women’s sports, but how to help women’s sports grow. The message was to create action where there is intention. Among the panelists were former New York Liberty star Sue Wicks, pro boxer/MMA fighter Heather Hardy and soccer player Kailen Sheriden, goalkeeper for Sky Blue FC, a New Jersey-based team in the National Women’s Soccer League.

“We all get fired up and inspired by panels, but then we walk away not knowing what to do with the information and how to mobilize it,” said Svensson. “That’s why we wanted to end with tangible ways that everyone—no matter if they’re a fan, someone who works in sport or a participant—has a chance to move the needle.”

The three pillars of SheIS are attendance and viewership, grassroots participation and unification, which means getting diverse stakeholders together. Working collaboratively, people who support women’s sports can grow attendance, participation and sponsorship.

Among the suggestions was to bring co-workers, friends and relatives to a sporting event, even people who aren’t fans of women’s sports. Everyone in attendance received a pair of tickets to a Sky Blue FC game. Hardy, who throughout her boxing career has been a tenacious self-promoter, said engage people in conversation and promote women’s sports on social media. Take the SheIS Challenge and use the hashtag #SheIsChallenge to keep people informed about women’s sports.

“Get involved in some of those hashtags so that more people are able to have a platform,” said Camille Currie, a former championship amateur boxer and director of strategic communications at CSM LeadDog. Former pro golfer and founder of Major League Girls Anya Alvarez said people should put pressure on media outlets to showcase more women’s sports.

Keia Clarke, COO of the New York Liberty, expressed appreciation for the team’s supportive fans and encouraged everyone to check out a game. “[Your support] means something to our business. It means something to our players,” said Clarke. “We represent this intersectionality of women and qualities throughout sports.”