Photo thanks to @Korinne_Dennis, Philadelphia Young Ambassador
Loretta Claiborne, Special Olympics competitor and Arthur Ashe Award recipient
Photo thanks to @Korinne_Dennis, Philadelphia Young Ambassador

“Dear Sirs … “

The bigger GOALS gets, the more messages I receive addressed to the man who must be in charge. I shouldn’t take it personally, but it makes my blood boil a bit when it happens multiple times a day.

So I couldn’t stop nodding my head when Jean Afterman recounted the many emails she’s received throughout her career addressed to “Mr. Afterman.” To be fair, Afterman is, unfortunately, a remarkable outlier in her field. As the Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager of the New York Yankees, she’s “the top-ranking female front-office executive in [baseball].” This is a woman who wears a World Series ring whenever she feels like it. She’s also a leader who says that in MLB offices, female candidates have to be “bigger, faster, and stronger, because between two equal applicants in her field, the man will get the job.”

Photo thanks to @mandynmurphy, Director for Special Olympics working with 'Worldwide Leader in Sports' to grow Unified Sports
Photo thanks to @mandynmurphy, Director for Special Olympics working with ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’ to grow Unified Sports

Afterman spoke on a panel at the Beyond Sport Summit called “Views from leaders in the industry” – all women – moderated by Sanyin Siang, Executive Director of the Coach K Leadership & Ethics Center at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Sharon Byers, Senior Vice resident at Coca-Cola, had this to say: “I had 450 people tell me no, and I walked out of all those meetings hearing maybe, and eventually I got a yes.” 

Last, but not least, Laura Gentile, Senior Vice President at espnW, spoke to including men in the process of advancing women. As a media and content creator, espnW can’t afford to exclude their male audience – just as ESPN can’t afford to lose half their potential viewers by leaving out women.

More than anything, this talk made me realize that women my age are truly standing on the shoulders of giants. I may receive messages addressed to “Mr. Shen” on a semi-regular basis, but at least I grew up with Title IX. There is work yet to be done in terms of evening the playing field for female CEOs, tenured professors, politicians, and more – but the progress that has been made, even recently, is impressive.

Afterman ended with this gem, which really summed it all up: “Besides giving birth to a baby, there is no difference between what a man can achieve and what a woman can achieve…Never take no for an answer.”