THE BLOG

The Digital World - When It Comes to Sport, Women Are Leading the Way

10/06/2014 16:46 BST | Updated 08/08/2014 10:59 BST

When I'm speaking to my friends who are also women in the sport industry, we often find ourselves reflecting that we work in a sector that's predominantly male. It's not a new realisation. And it's not surprising. Sometimes it's a rant, sometimes it's a complaint, and other times it's just an observation of a meeting we had where we were the only woman in the room, or at an event where very few women were present.

The same happens when I speak to my girlfriends working in the tech industry. Most entering the world of gadgets, digital platforms, and online start-ups seem to be men. And the numbers back that up. Google's recent workforce diversity report released that 70% of its employees are men. And the New York Times on various occasions has reported the high-tech companies are in the lowest bracket for senior-level women. In one article, it revealed that, on average, in Silicon Valley fewer than one in 28 of the highest-paid tech executives is a woman.

These numbers are telling, despite the fact Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg have become poster girls not just for women in the tech world but for women in any business.

And yet, with Beyond Sport United coming up on Tuesday - June 11th - at Yankee Stadium, I seem to have suddenly been proven wrong. Those cliché observations about being a woman in a man's world have come a bit undone.

It actually seems, when it comes to the digital and sport overlap, the ladies have the lead.

Beyond Sport United, which is backed by Founding Supporters MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, NASCAR, and WNBA, is an event that focuses on how teams and leagues can better engage their communities, and how that drives business benefit.

In its fourth year, the one-day event, which gathers leaders in professional sport, community, development, business, government and philanthropy, is focusing on a key belief that has developed in this space: teams and leagues can benefit from better engaging and by genuinely and positively impacting youth. And the best way to do that is through social and digital media platforms. So the speaker lineup for this year's event is a looking very different from previous years, with experts in online change platforms, leaders in digital sports media, innovators in youth engagement all taking the stage.

When you look at that speaker programme, here's what's interesting: when it comes to the most senior leaders in sport and digital, particularly in the US, it's women taking the lead. Especially when we're talking about social change.

Amanda Vandervort, Director of Social Media for MLS, will speak on the opening panel. She has been deemed a powerhouse in this space and credited with forging MLS into the online social stratosphere.

Melissa Brenner, Head of Digital for the NBA, is leading the way on online engagement for a brand that has been deemed one of the most tech and digitally savvy in sport.

Lisa Baird, who will also speak at Beyond Sport United, is the highly esteemed CMO of the United States Olympic Committee. She will relay how the governing body took their engagement with sponsors, athletes and fans to the next level at Sochi through new media and digital engagement.

Deanna Castellini, whose family own the Cincinnati Reds and who has just taken up a position at Right To Play USA as CEO, will speak about the platform she founded called Ugive.org, which provides an easy, streamlined way for young people to volunteer for sports organisations and track their time commitments.

And that's just scratching the surface. Other speakers include Jean Afterman, NY Yankees Assistant General Manager and one of the most senior women in US sport, who will speak on leadership at the ESPN Senior Leadership Dinner on the eve of Beyond Sport United. She'll join Jessica Montaung, Managing Director of the South African Kaizer Chiefs.

Bernadette Mansur, who leads on the NHL's entire community and foundation strategy, and Kathy Behrens, Executive Vice President for the NBA on community and player relations, have been two of Beyond Sport United's biggest champions since the first edition in 2011.

Sometimes (not always, but, yes, sometimes) at Beyond Sport events, we have struggled to get a senior woman on a panel, or female representation at a senior dinner. And I am forced to come to the frustrating conclusion that the sport industry is a male-dominated one.

But on the topic of digital media, sport, and social change, it doesn't seem to be the case. On this integrated subject, which is at the top of the sector's agenda, women look to be leading the way.

Turns out that when it comes to sport, the digital world is actually a woman's world.

Find out more about Beyond Sport United and who will be speaking at www.beyondsport.org/united

Check out more about thinkBeyond and what we do at www.canyouthinkbeyond.com