Born in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, Pavithra Chandra grew up in a loving family of four, and spent most of her life in Gujarat before moving back to her hometown. While other girls in her apartment complex liked to sit and chat after school in the courtyard, Pavithra liked to be active and play outdoor games. As a result, she often found herself as the only girl competing with the boys in intense neighborhood cricket matches. And as the only girl, Pavithra was often relegated to merely fetching the balls that were hit outside the compound, never given a chance to pitch or bat.
Desperate to become part of the action, Pavithra struck a deal with her mother: “If I earn the best marks and finish in the top ten in my class this year, will you please buy me my own cricket gear?” Her mother agreed. After a lot of hard work, Pavithra showed up to the neighborhood with full cricket attire and brand new equipment. She proudly puffed out her chest and told the boys, “Today, I bat all day.”
Pavithra thanks those boys for pushing her and helping her to discover the determination she’s always had to be successful inside and outside of sports. From 1997 to 2001, she was a member of India’s women’s national basketball team, and at the end of her athletic career she dedicated herself to her studies, earning an MBA in marketing and human resources from Mount Carmel Institute of Management.
Throughout her time in basketball, Pavithra always felt frustrated by the lack of organized training and attention given to the women’s game. She felt that female players were not encouraged to pursue sports as a viable career option. Furthermore, the cultural pressure from Indian parents to prioritize academics meant that most teenagers, male and female, either dropped sports altogether or approached it as a secondary hobby. However, Pavithra was lucky to have very supportive parents that allowed her to pursue a career in sports and “be the change” needed in her society.
Already experienced in upper management roles with the Paralympic Committee of India and Olympic Gold Quest Foundation, Pavithra launched B7 Sports Management in 2008, where she is the CEO of the organization. She is driven to change the perception of sports in Bangalore and throughout India.
“We work in consulting, event management, and run a sports academy,” Pavithra says. “In all of these, we emphasize the health and empowerment of kids and women, because they are so neglected in our society.”
For all of B7 Sports’ successes during its seven-year existence, challenges have always been present. An Indian blueprint for how to have success in the sports field doesn’t exist, and few mentors are available to guide Pavithra in her professional journey. Currently, Pavithra is searching for new strategies and insights on how to work with government to influence policymaking and create the type of lasting change that Title IX has in the United States.
“Every change we’ve made has been met with some resistance,” Pavithra says. “But, I know that if we take a step back, we’d never go anywhere. We want to be an example for other women and community programs in our city and in our country.”
By participating in the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), Pavithra hopes to grow her abilities in securing strategic partnerships, marketing her program, and attaining buy-in from key stakeholders, including parents, neighborhood authorities, corporate sponsors, sports associations, government, and other NGOs. We believe Julie Eddleman, Global Client Partner at Google, is the perfect mentor for the job. With Julie’s extensive background in marketing and promotions, her passion for women’s empowerment, her mentorship experience and investment in this program, and Google’s vast global presence, Pavithra will find exactly what she needs to make her dreams a reality. We are excited to see what these two visionaries dream together and the ways it will change the future for Bangalore and beyond.
Unlike the girls that participate in her programs, Cynthia Coredo is not a boxer. But, she may have the hardest chin in the gym. Born in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, Cynthia has taken life’s jabs and uppercuts since she was 11, but has powered through to emerge on the other side of the chaos.
“I was very young, and one day my older sister and I were on the way to the market to buy milk and bread, when we saw a crowd surrounding the street,” Cynthia recalls. “And the crowd was saying, ‘Look, this man is dead.’ And from that moment everything changed. It was my father.”
One of four siblings, with another on the way, her mother sent her and her older sister from Nairobi to live with their grandmother in a small village. Cynthia attended an orphan’s school where she was a star pupil, earning a scholarship to study in secondary school. However, her mother soon passed away from depression, and in 2006 her sister also died from tuberculosis. It seemed that whenever her circumstances improved, another unexpected punch hit her hard. But, none were strong enough to shake her faith and determination.
“I had to work very hard and depend on myself,” Cynthia says. “But, I remember at one point I was sweeping our school compound and I said to myself, ‘Cynthia, one day you’re going to be a global woman for global works and you will touch the lives of young women the way your life is being touched now.’”
In 2008, Cynthia began working as a volunteer tutor with Boxgirls Kenya, a startup organization created to engage women and girls from marginalized areas in boxing programs and equip them with the leadership skills and confidence needed to create positive social change. One year later, Cynthia joined full-time as the program manager to support the underfunded organization, which has since reached more than one thousand girls and young women around Nairobi through the sport of boxing.
In her current position, Cynthia coordinates sport and leadership programs aimed at making girls stronger, more confident, and goal-oriented inside and outside of the ring. Her daily schedule is a vast mix of communicating with donors, evaluating and managing resources, organizing staff trainings, developing curriculum and writing grants.
In order to prioritize schooling for her brother and younger sister, who she has looked after since her mother’s death, Cynthia was not able to attend university on a regular basis (although she has earned certificates in business management and public relations from the University of Nairobi). On top of her work with Boxgirls, she now attends classes part-time in pursuit of a degree in gender, women and development studies.
“I learned that being somebody that can instill something positive into somebody else’s life is so much greater than any other success,” Cynthia says. “Somebody believed in me when I was young, and now my goal is to invest in girls and young women in our community to stand and be role models.”
Cynthia also recently served as a motivational speaker for the UNESCO World Youth Forum on Sport, Culture and Peace in Nanjing, China, and was named a featured social innovator by the Ogunte Network in the United Kingdom.
Through this program, Cynthia hopes to learn how to couple sports programs with entrepreneurial skills that can help the women and girls of Kenya gain economic independence. She also hopes to gain skills in mentoring and consulting so that she can train other women to become leaders in sport and society.
We believe Gwen Conley, Group Media Director, and her team at Saatchi will be just the innovative thinkers Cynthia needs to accomplish these goals. Gwen’s curiosity and ability to combine different mediums to achieve integrated solutions will be perfect in helping Cynthia develop her entrepreneurial model. Saatchi’s four-year investment in the program and also in Kenya uniquely positions them to help Cynthia create a mentoring program for other Kenyan women. We are excited to watch the Kenyan forces collide for the betterment of women in their society and the power they all derive from Saatchi’s support and guidance.
Cecilia Vales approaches every day of her life with a clear mission: “Save the world and get every girl in our academy into college.”
Cecilia, the executive director for Gonzo Soccer Latin America, an organization that provides underserved girls in Mexico and Colombia with elite soccer and life-skills training, has been on this mission since 2009. A former college soccer player at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations, Cecilia has more than a decade of experience in non-profit organizations whose mission is to improve the quality of life for girls and families affected by poverty and violence.
“There’s a lot of violence in my community and throughout the country,” Cecilia says. “Women suffer from many forms of abuse. There are especially abuses in the maquilas (foreign-owned factories) in Mexico. Through soccer, we try to show girls there are other possibilities in life and there are different roads to get where they want.”
As a former collegiate athlete, Cecilia knows the potential sport has to validate and empower young girls. She is working hard to combat the machismo culture prevalent in her community and continuously advocates for the power of sport to transform lives.
“Sport has a silent power, but the people in Mexico don’t give importance to it,” Cecilia says. “If you want to be an athlete, you’re on your own. And, for us, it’s sometimes hard because there are psychological issues and abuses. But we know sport is the answer. It can be a safe place for them.”
On top of life skills training and mentorship, Gonzo provides nutrition classes and English-language instruction to girls, in hopes it will increase their opportunities and end the cycle of poverty so prevalent in these communities.
“We all know soccer doesn’t last forever, so our main objective is for the girls to go to college and get a degree,” Cecilia says.
In her role at Gonzo, Cecilia oversees the opening of new academies, monitors soccer coaches and management staff, devises business strategies, develops strategic alliances, leads fundraising efforts, and supervises the digital marketing strategy of the organization.
In 2014, Cecilia attended the espnW Women and Sports Summit in 2015 with Monica Gonzalez, Gonzo Soccer co-founder and former Mexico women’s national team soccer player. Through the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), which concludes with attendance at the summit, Cecilia wants to take further advantage of the opportunity to network with strong female leaders, familiarize herself with new leadership and funding strategies, and learn more about U.S. legislation like Title IX that has served to empower American girls and women in their pursuit of sports opportunities.
We believe Karen Morrison, Chief Diversity Officer, and Tiffany Sayhaydak, Head Women’s Soccer Coach, at the University of Central Florida (UCF), are the incredible duo to help Cecilia address these issues. Being on campus at UCF will give Cecilia first-hand insight into the ways soccer and education support and enhance the student-athlete experience. Karen’s background and expertise in Title IX and Tiffany’s role as an Olympian, and now head coach, will provide Cecilia with the resources she needs to push for legislative change in Mexico, while also advancing her goals to create a supportive and safe space for the girls in her academy. Collectively, we are excited to watch these three create new pathways for women and girls in Mexico to achieve their dreams of education through sports and to end the current cycles of poverty and violence that exist.
Two years ago, Caroline Maher became the first woman of Arab, Egyptian and African descent to be inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame. The achievement was especially significant to Caroline because of the difficult obstacles she overcame prior to her induction.
By her mid-twenties, Caroline was an Egyptian martial arts icon; ranked as high as third overall in her weight class by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), with more than 130 medals in 38 countries collected in national, regional and international competitions dating back to the age of 10. But, after these successes she unexpectedly came under investigation for suspected use of performance enhancing drugs.
After hearing the news of a two-year suspension, Caroline felt the ground shaking beneath her feet. Her parents, supportive throughout her entire athletic career, told her to summon the energy to contest the charges. Caroline raised the money necessary to hire a lawyer and took her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In the end, it was worth it. The CAS ruled in her favor and cited several examples of misconduct, including “lack of any reliable evidence,” ordering the WTF to reimburse Caroline for her legal fees.
“Through this I learned that you should never, ever give up,” Caroline says. “If I didn’t stand for myself, I would’ve lived my whole life dealing with the shame even though I was falsely accused. If you’re right, you have to fight for yourself.”
Caroline, who completed her MBA in human resources management from Victoria University in Switzerland in early 2015, continues to be involved with taekwondo, on top of her full-time role as a human resource manager for CDCM sole proprietor at Peugeot in Egypt. She also volunteers with Helm, a non-profit organization for people with disabilities, where she aims to introduce new disability sports programs. She recently approached the Egyptian Taekwondo Federation about launching a Para-taekwondo national team in time for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Caroline is unafraid of challenges. She is the youngest manager at CDCM. After appealing her unwarranted suspension, she returned to win two more Egyptian, Arab and African taekwondo championships. She was also honored earlier in 2014 with the United Nations’ “Women of Achievement” award, along with 25 other women worldwide, due to her achievements in various fields. With the conviction that she can overcome anything, Caroline wants to use the sport she has fought to keep in her life to change the lives of millions of persons with disabilities in Egypt.
Working with Kerry Ruggieri, Senior Vice President, and Sofia Lombardo, Vice President, at Ketchum Sports & Entertainment will provide Caroline with the combination of passion, innovation, and support that she needs to fight for women and people with disabilities in Egypt. Kerry and Sofia are creative geniuses and masterful storytellers who have launched some of the best public relations campaigns in the world. This team will undoubtedly help Caroline craft her own story and find creative ways to use her platform as an elite athlete to drive social change. With Ketchum’s incredible global reach, including an office in Cairo, we see this relationship extending far beyond the conclusion of the program. We are excited to see how Caroline, Kerry, and Sofia combine their creative energies and relentless spirits to develop new opportunities for girls, women, and persons with disabilities in Egypt
Tennis and life in the slums are as difficult to put together in one’s imagination as they are in actuality. Such was the case in Kenya until former professional tennis player Veronica Osogo began her work in Kibera, a large slum settlement three miles outside of downtown Nairobi.
“The game was very strange for the kids,” Veronica says. “At first, they called it golf and they called me their golf teacher. Most of them had never seen it. But they asked me to never stop coming back and I haven’t.”
It was almost a decade ago that Veronica first entered Kibera, where the majority of its one million inhabitants live off less than one dollar a day. She brought a few rackets and balls to teach the kids the sport she fell in love with as an adult.
“During my travels with tennis, I met so many people who had challenges,” Veronica says. “It made me realize there are problems all around me, but I can do something about them. I can change a life. And I can use sport to do that. Sports are not money or food, both of which encourage dependency. Sports are lifelong skills that empower people to become independent leaders and thinkers. Someone gave me tennis and this is better than any gift they could have given to me. Now I am committed to giving it to others.”
In 2000, Veronica graduated from Guru Nanak Dev University in India with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Afterward, she competed professionally on the African tennis circuit, winning doubles titles in Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Sudan and Ethiopia. When not competing, she coaches on behalf of the Kenya Lawn Tennis Association, the sport’s national governing body, and in 2014 helped the women’s wheelchair tennis team qualify for the BNP Paribas World Team Cup, a historic achievement for her country.
In 2006, Veronica launched Zion Zone Tennis Foundation out of her early volunteer work in the slums with the purpose of engaging children through a range of activities that promote physical health, self-exploration, and, ultimately, alleviate poverty. In a nine-year span, the organization has grown from serving 28 students at its inception to more than 500 today. In 2009, Veronica won the Sport Personality of the Year (SOYA) award as Kenya’s “Community Hero” for her work.
“My biggest desire is to establish this program in different slums and reach more children,” Veronica says. “My dream is to have my own tennis center, a place for the children to come and enjoy themselves. Right now, all of the money I raise is used to pay rent to private clubs. With our own center, the kids could feel more at home and there would be more money for equipment and tournament travel.”
There is no greater mentor for Veronica than the largest women’s sports federation in the world, the Women’s Tennis Association. Working with Kathryn Chappetto, Director of Partnerships, and Cindy Lupkey, Manager of Global Administration and Projects, will not only be a personally fulfilling experience for Veronica, but also a professional dream come true. As Veronica seeks to grow the game of tennis, we feel confident that Kathryn and Cindy will give her the guidance, support, and resources she needs to exceed even her own expectations. Kathryn and Cindy’s backgrounds in marketing, communications, and public relations will undoubtedly help Veronica tell her own story and ultimately market Zion Zone Tennis to a number of new audiences – including sponsors – who can assist her in purchasing her own facility. We are excited to watch these three serve up new ideas as they dream of ways to empower underserved girls in Kiberia through tennis.
At 5 years old, Shanelle Barrett begged her dad to let her accompany him to the Taupo Harriers Club so she could run with the club. But unfortunately, according to the sports club policies, she was too young. So she did what any headstrong little girl would do, she ran anyway.
“As a child I was extremely determined and competitive,” Shanelle recalls. “By the age of 10, I finished my first triathlon. In the same year, I was invited to be part of the closing ceremonies for the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand. After watching these amazing, elite athletes, I declared to my Mum that I would become one and make it to the Olympics one day.”
Years later, Shanelle was on the cusp of making the New Zealand triathlon team for the Athens 2004 Games, but came down with a debilitating illness, glandular fever, and was bed-ridden for six months. Doctors advised her it would be detrimental to her health to continue to race. This experience was a crushing blow to an athlete who had spent the last 15 years of her life training for an Olympic opportunity.
Undefeated, however, Shanelle was determined to reach her Olympic goals. With her racing career over, she set her sights on a new pursuit – becoming an internationally qualified technical official for the sport of triathlon. In 2012, Shanelle achieved her lifelong dream and was selected as part of the officiating team for the London Olympics.
“When I first came into officiating, you maybe saw two or three female officials involved,” Shanelle says. “So I thought it’d be a good challenge to try and change that. And now, in New Zealand, we probably have 80 percent women officials. We are a developed nation and have broken down a lot of barriers between males and females already, but we don’t want to get complacent.”
Shanelle is unyielding, competitive, and driven. In her role as technical and events advisor for Triathlon New Zealand, the national governing body for triathlon, duathlon, aquathon and cross triathlon, she is responsible for taking the technical program from “the dark side” of an, old school, male-dominated culture to increased participation and access for women and persons with disabilities. Shanelle works closely with Paralympics NZ, the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, and Parafeds to accomplish her inclusion goals.
During her time in the United States, Shanelle wants to learn new strategies for working in a multicultural environment to promote diversity and inclusivity. Although she has been in event management for 15 years, she feels there is more to learn and ways to scale the sport both in access, marketing, and promotions. Shanelle also hopes to gain greater insight into mentoring programs for women – as athletes, officials, and professionals in the sports field – to propel women of all abilities forward in a unified effort.
Joan Coraggio, group director of brand integration, and her team at Saatchi & Saatchi will provide Shanelle with the solid combination of passion, expertise, and innovation as well as the energizing support she needs to continue fighting for women and persons with disabilities in New Zealand. Joan and her team are creative geniuses who can whiteboard and find solutions to the most difficult challenges. Saatchi’s incredible partnership with Paralympians, including Amy Purdy, and their longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion may provide Shanelle with new and creative ideas in the disability sports sphere. In addition, Saatchi has experience working in the triathlon space and valuable connections with USA Triathlon and the Southern California Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, both of which will offer insightful event management experiences for Shanelle. With such ripe opportunities for Shanelle to make a difference in the realm of diversity and inclusion, we believe Joan and Saatchi are the best to help her navigate an action plan around sport and human rights.
In the office, her colleagues call her Katie. But on the track, she’s known as “PsychoKat,” a fearless warrior eager to create roller derby leagues for women throughout France.
Katie Bourner, a British-born Frenchwoman, was introduced to the sport of roller derby through a friend who saw it in action for the first time in Canada. Anxious to see a game, Katie searched the internet for roller derby leagues, but couldn’t find any in her town of Nantes. She did, however, find a team in Paris and quickly packed her bags to see this curious new sport. Inspired by her meeting with the women on the team in Paris, she returned home and founded with her partner Nantes Derby Girls, where she currently serves as a player and president.
Despite having a master’s degree in professional analyses and social interventions, Katie says everything in her life now is a means to roller derby and aiding its expansion throughout France and the rest of Europe. On top of her full-time job as a customer relations officer for Generali France, and her roles with the Nantes Derby Girls, Katie is also the French liaison to the Woman’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association, the international governing body for the sport.
After five years of development, sports federations in France are only just starting to recognize roller derby as an official sport, which means it receives no government funding or regulation. Many upstart leagues also cannot find training spaces, due to the lack of facilities, leading teams to practice outside all year round, regardless of weather.
Although she wants the sport to maintain its purity, Katie believes roller derby can serve an important role in women’s empowerment, inclusion, and the development of positive body image for thousands of women in her country.
Within the next five years, Katie is driven to ensure that junior roller derby is introduced throughout the country. She also wants to see added structure and a growth in the standard of trainers, officials and facilities. Ultimately, her dream is to see roller derby on TV. In order to achieve these goals, she hopes to use her time in the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) to learn about marketing, promotions, public relations, fan growth, and strategic planning.
As Katie seeks to grow the “game,” there is no one in the industry better than Hilary Shaev, Vice President of Marketing Operations for the National Basketball Association (NBA), to support her on this journey. Hilary has extensive experience in marketing and promotions, both in the music business as well as the sports world. She was instrumental in rebranding the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and also developing the WNBA Pride platform.
Like Katie, Hilary is passionate about advancing women’s sports, especially in the area of fan growth. Both Katie and Hilary have worked diligently to promote sport for women in tough markets. We are excited to watch these two power players expand the market for roller derby fans, participants, sponsors, and media outlets. Ultimately, we look forward to the way this sport can create an empowering space for girls and women of every shape, size, and age in France and beyond.
As a child, Nga Le did not have to practice humility. Born in Hue, Vietnam, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Nga only knew humble circumstances, a result of the drastic changes in her family’s fortunes following the end of a two decade long war.
“My dad’s family was very rich before 1975 because they worked for the United States government,” Nga says. “After the war was over, the people who worked for the U.S. suffered for the next 20 years, and my mom and dad had to overcome a lot of difficulties.”
Although Nga’s family struggled to make ends meet, they were happy. Her parents always encouraged her to pursue her studies and make a better life for herself. As a result, Nga was driven to succeed, not only for herself, but also for her family and her hometown of Hue. From first through 12th grade, she finished among the top five students in her class, attending a prestigious local high school on scholarship, and becoming the first student from that school to attend Foreign Trade University, the top university in Vietnam.
Upon graduation, Nga found herself living in Ho Chi Minh City without any financial support and in desperate need of a job. After working for Jollibee Corporation in marketing and customer service positions, Nga had a conversation with a friend that changed the course of her professional life.
“I had a friend who was leaving her personal assistant job and suggested I take her place,” Nga says. “She introduced me to Connor Nguyen (CEO of XLE Group & Nga’s current employer). At the time, he was just a tennis coach who needed a personal assistant. But shortly after hiring me, he decided to open a sports academy. During the first year that I worked for him, the academy grew tremendously.”
Despite her lack of experience in the sports industry, Nga continued to excel in her role as an administrative assistant. She was soon promoted to office manager and then marketing lead at Saigon Sports Academy (SSA). When Nguyen started XLE Group, a sports entertainment company that oversees SSA, the Saigon Heat professional men’s basketball team, and the Vietnam University Games, he brought Nga on as his executive assistant. Since 2011, she has received four promotions, arriving at her current role as SSA sports business and operations director.
During her professional journey, Nga has fallen in love with sports, especially basketball. The game, the atmosphere, the sense of belonging, and the joy of teamwork are what keep Nga going during the hard late-night stretches and extensive travel. Nga believes that if more girls in Vietnam could be exposed to basketball and other sports at a young age, they would not only fall in love, but they would find new confidence, strength, and leadership abilities.
“Women in Vietnam need sport,” Nga says. “It is very underdeveloped in our country. There is still much discrimination between men and women. Men receive all the attention even though the women’s teams are winning and earning prizes. I want to learn from the United States, your model, so that we can develop sport and grow this type of atmosphere for girls and women in my country.”
By participating in the GSMP, Nga hopes to expand her sports business, marketing, and entertainment skills while learning from female American role models. There could be no greater fit for Nga than Val Ackerman and Ann Wells Crandall at the Big East. Val is an American icon in the basketball world, promoting the sport at every level – collegiately, professionally, and internationally. Val’s background as the former president of the WNBA along with her 8 years of experience serving on the FIBA board and her current role as commissioner of the Big East will be invaluable. Nga will also benefit from the incredible and expansive business experience of Ann, Chief Marketing Officer of the Big East. Ann has worked on marketing strategies for some of the best organizations in the world – from nonprofits to professional sports. Undoubtedly, Val and Ann will be a dynamite one-two punch for Nga as she tries to expand the game of basketball in Vietnam and beyond.
In the history of mountaineering, less than 50 people have completed the Adventurer’s Grand Slam, which entails a summit of the seven highest peaks on each continent, and reaching the North and South Poles. Two of these, Tashi and Nungshi Malik of India, are also the first siblings and twins to accomplish the feat.
Born in the state of Haryana in northern India, the sisters began their career as explorers after finishing secondary school. Their father, a retired military officer who had moved the family throughout India during his career, signed his daughters up for a basic course in mountaineering.
“That turned into a very good chance for us to explore the outdoors,” Tashi says. “And it was a very good opportunity because we got to do it together.”
Tashi and Nungshi are inseparable. Since childhood, the twins have attended the same schools, completing bachelor’s degrees in journalism and mass communication from Sikkim Manipal University, and receiving certificates in peacebuilding from SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont in 2012. They share the same passion for dancing, music, and athletics, and can telepathically finish each other’s sentences. The mountains “cast a spell” on them both, as Nungshi puts it. But, from the outset of their journey as mountaineers, Tashi and Nungshi knew pursuing sport as a career would be a huge cultural challenge.
“When we first spoke about Everest, everyone in our family said, ‘Girls don’t take up sports like mountaineering,’” Nungshi says. “Mom was quite worried about us, so for three years she stopped us from climbing. There was this pressure on her from our community about why she was letting her daughters do this.”
Outside of the major cities in India, the twins say women are solely prized for their domestic capabilities. When it comes to sports, women are deemed incompetent or unfit. Male children are also highly prioritized over girls because of norms dictating that after marriage a woman leaves to join her in-laws’ family and, thus, is no longer able to provide financial support to her parents.
“Women are born with mountains to climb,” Tashi says, “and that has become our inspiration for climbing the mountains outside.”
Tashi and Nungshi have spoken extensively throughout India on women’s empowerment, including a TEDx talk in New Delhi, and have been honored by the President of India and the Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand, Haryana and Delhi. In January 2015, the sisters were named brand ambassadors for the Uttarakhand government’s Save the Girl Child campaign to improve high rates of female infant mortality and infanticide in the state.
In order to continue supporting their efforts in the future, Tashi and Nungshi hope to learn more about marketing, sports management, and fundraising through their participation in the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP).
“Although we have ideas on how to approach our plans, we lack experience on a larger scale,” Nungshi says. “We’re novices in terms of entrepreneurship, and we know we’ll have the opportunity to learn from women with an abundance of experience.”
As the twins look for ways to market their newly established foundation, they will rely heavily on Susan Cohig, Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing, and her team at the NHL. Susan’s extensive background in marketing, sponsorships, and branding will expose the Malik’s to new skills that will propel their foundation forward. Susan’s long-term investment in the GSMP – mentoring in 2013, 2014, and again in 2015 – not only demonstrates her commitment to empowering women, but also defines her as a seasoned veteran in cause-related strategic planning.
At the NHL, the Maliks will engage with the NHL Foundation and Hockey Fights Cancer, two entities addressing community issues and promoting social responsibility. As one of the only female senior executives in a male sports league, we feel certain Susan’s own professional and personal journey will encourage and inspire the Malik’s to continue carving out their space as females in the mountaineering world. We look forward to the mountains these women will climb together and the ways this partnership will inspire a new generation of females in India.
Hanna Fauzie sat nervously across from the editor-in-chief of the Koran Sindo, an Indonesian newspaper distributed in nine provinces. Despite earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2002 and working as a reporter on two occasions in the past, she was fresh off three years in public relations. Hanna was convinced, however, that she was supposed to be a sports journalist.
“What if I don’t put you on the sports desk?” the editor-in-chief asked. Hanna was bold, remembering when she first dreamed of this career after falling in love with soccer during the 1994 World Cup. “It’s my dream—you have to help my dream come true,” she told him.
Hanna’s courageous response worked. She was hired as the only female sports reporter for the newspaper and in a decade she has covered some of the most prestigious soccer tournaments in the world: the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, 2010 World Cup, and 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. She has also conducted interviews with former soccer champions, from Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Kempes to Xavi Hernandez and Alessandro del Piero. Now the managing deputy editor, Hanna is still the only woman covering sports for the Koran Sindo.
“Every time we visit a campus to speak, I always ask the women, ‘Do you want to be sports journalists?’ Hanna says. “They raise their hands, but they’re not so optimistic about the future of the female journalist. In Indonesia, you only see women presenting the quizzes and games. They don’t think they can compete with male journalists to cover the big tournaments.”
Hanna grew up in Bogor, a city of one million people located in the West Java province, 37 miles from Jakarta. She is the second oldest in her family, with three sisters and one baby brother, and has always had their support, whether it was in pursuing journalism or running races as a teenager.
“Before my brother was born, I was coming home with bruises or bleeding from playing outside, and my parents always put Band-Aids on me and told me, ‘You are the boy we never had,’” Hanna remembers.
Although in her adult life she spends more time covering the action on the field than participating in it, Hanna is involved with all of the Koran Sindo’s sports-related events. These include the Garuda Cup, a sponsored soccer tournament for children from 8 to 13, the Run for Cervical Cancer, and the Koran Sindo Annual Futsal Tournament for Indonesian media workers and football fan clubs.
Through her participation in the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), Hanna hopes to learn more about organizing sports events to serve woman. Most importantly, though, she wants to become a mentor to female journalists throughout the country.
“I still lack leadership and decision-making skills,” Hanna says. “I really want to improve in these areas because in my company I am the youngest of the editorial top management. I’m still not confident about making decisions that involve many people. My editor-in-chief and vice editor tell me I have to be more brave and take more responsibility. I think a female mentor could really help me in this area.”
We can think of no better mentor for the job than Kimberly Wilson, vice president of affiliate marketing at ESPN. Wilson, a two-time recipient of ESPN’s Leadership Award in Marketing, is a 15-year marketing veteran, manages a multi-million dollar budget for her 11-member team, and has a passion for mentoring women of different backgrounds. This mentorship experience with Kimberly will be invaluable for Hanna as she learns to manage her own team and make crucial decisions on behalf of her organization. Kimberly’s expertise in media, branding, and content distribution may also help Hanna develop lead stories and profile pieces that influence external audiences to believe in the power of sports for women and girls. We are excited to see what’s to come and the difference this mentorship will make in a country pressing for more women’s sports opportunities and coverage.
Batoul Arnaout gets stares as she rides her bike through Amman, Jordan. A grown woman on a bicycle continues to raise eyebrows in the Middle East. Batoul challenges the status quo, choosing to embody a sports woman in a culture that still sees sports as a purely male domain.
“For lots of people, they don’t think I’m a normal person,” Batoul says. “I’m 36 years old and I’m always on the streets, running or on my bicycle. But just because I’m doing something that is not accepted by the public, doesn’t mean I’m going to stop. I wouldn’t leave sports for anyone.”
Batoul has been relentless in her pursuit of sport. From the age of five, she has participated in a range of athletic activities, including basketball, squash, and taekwondo. To this day, she continues taking part in sport as an avid cyclist and long distance runner. Through these experiences, she has found strength and independence. She knows this would not have been possible without the constant support of her father, who stood by her side even as other voices in her life told her to settle down.
“He raised me to be a strong, confident and independent woman,” Batoul says. “He taught me how to work hard to achieve my dreams and how to never underestimate myself as a woman. I learned from him that dignity and integrity always come first.”
A former public relations regional manager for LG Electronics in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, with an MBA in marketing from the University of Mutah, Batoul has always found a way to incorporate sport into her professional life. After a promising career in management, she founded BOOST – Better Opportunities & Options for Sports Today —in April 2014, with the aim of increasing access to sport for Jordanians and improving the standard of sport across the country.
“I was jogging in the Sport City (Al Hussein Youth City in Amman) and there was so much trash and (people) smoking everywhere,” Batoul says. “So I decided to launch a campaign to clean up the running track and announce it as a non-smoking area so athletes would want to go back.”
After the success of the cleanup campaign, which received support from over 100 volunteers, Batoul officially registered BOOST. She then launched “Help Them Become Champions,” a follow-up project aimed at providing underserved children by encouraging people to donate sports wear and equipment at collection sites in 10 fitness centers.
“Because I am an athlete, I know the situation in Jordan,” Batoul says. “I was lucky because my family was supportive, and they helped me buy my equipment to play, but others aren’t so lucky. The joy I get from helping these kids is priceless. It makes me sleep happy.”
As part of her efforts, Batoul partnered with other local non-profits on her campaigns, (such as Cycling Jordan), and wants to continue engaging community leaders to increase BOOST’s positive impact in the area. She has already received media attention from The Jordan Times and Al-Jazeera, the largest television network in the Arab world. Now, she wants to learn more about strategic partnerships, campaign fundraising, website development, and event management to perpetuate the organization’s growth.
Batoul’s passion for healthy sports environments, coupled with her love of cycling and her background in squash, make Alicia McConnell, Director of Training Sites and Community Partnerships at the USOC a natural match for this mentorship. Based in Colorado Springs, the USOC is surrounded by natural beauty and the residents are committed to clean air and the environment. Just a short drive from USOC headquarters is USA Cycling, a fantastic connection for Batoul given her cycling and fundraising endeavors. Furthermore, Alicia is a top athlete and served as a squash coach before coming to the USOC. Alicia’s passion for community outreach will prove invaluable for Batoul as she engages local Jordanians in community service projects. We look forward to watching this relationship blossom and all of the amazing things they will learn from one another – on bikes, on the court, and in the community.
Najat AlSayegh is living in the midst of historic changes taking place in Kuwait’s societal perception of women. Since gaining the right to vote in 2005, women in this small Arab nation have become increasingly involved in political life. In 2009, women won four parliamentary seats. Today, Kuwaiti women are looking for more governmental support and encouragement to empower them to reach higher political and social positions.
Najat aspires to political leadership, preferring to focus on the increased opportunities in Kuwait for women to find their voice rather than potential roadblocks. As the saying goes: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” She credits her family and sports for instilling in her the belief in equal rights for all. She has always believed in gender equality and has fought for this right since a very young age.
“In Kuwait, each school selects a group of students to salute the flag every morning,” Najat sats. “As a child, I desperately wanted to be chosen for this special duty. So one day, my two friends and I decided to practice saluting it. And my teacher came running for me and said I had to go to the classroom immediately because saluting the flag is only for boys. At five years old, I could not understand why my friend Fahad could salute the flag and I could not. My parents and I had a long talk with the principal, asking that I be treated with the same dignity and respect as the boys. Since that day, I have saluted the flag.”
As a child, Najat’s passion for Kuwait was only rivaled by her passion for sport.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Kuwait University, and spending more than three years in marketing, public relations and event management, Najat accepted her current role as a project manager with the Ministry of Youth Affairs. Since January 2014, she has worked from her position within the government to open free sports clubs in communities where women have the least access, in an effort to promote participation and combat high rates of obesity and diabetes in these areas. She also launched a project called The Ugly Truth, part of the Women’s Empowerment Initiative (WEI), to train women in mid-management in soft skills like work ethic, teamwork and leadership, with hopes of seeing a two-percent increase in female business leaders within the next two years.
Najat’s passion for youth development, holistic health, and sports opportunities for women and girls, specifically basketball, could not be a better fit for Laura Dixon, executive director for community responsibility at Spurs Sports & Entertainment. Laura and her team are driven to be the most impactful sports organization in the world and are working on community-based programs in San Antonio to help them achieve this mission. Although they have many programs and causes that will be relevant to Najat, their passion for empowering underserved communities through health, education, and sport are most synergistic to Najat’s dream for Kuwait. Together, we feel these two will create incredible social awareness campaigns for each of their respective communities that will make both better places for the next generation. We can’t wait to see the results.
Imagine knowing exactly what you wanted to do with your life at 11 years old and then making it happen. Most children only dream of where their futures might take them. However, in the case of Carla Bustamante, she knew the path she would follow before she even reached high school.
“When I was 11 years old, I won a local newspaper contest and got to be a reporter for a day for at the Caribbean Series Baseball Tournament,” Carla says. “I went to the ballpark in Hermosillo and got to interview a lot of great baseball players. When I went home, I said to my mom, ‘I don’t want to clean my shoes, they have dust from the ballpark.’ I wanted to remember that day forever. That day defined me as a person.”
Carla launched her professional journalism career in high school, which has resulted in a long list of firsts – first woman sportscaster for Telemax, first female announcer for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo Baseball Club, and first woman to work in an executive position for the Naranjeros. Carla’s professional journey also includes serving as a columnist for the sports magazines Score and Béisbol Total, a freelancer for ESPN, and a reporter for Megacable. Carla’s educational achievements include a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and a master’s in marketing and international business from the Universidad del Valle de Mexico.
In 2006, Carla took on a behind-the-scenes role when she joined the Naranjeros, where she is now director of public relations, handling everything from press conferences and game-day promotions to social media.
“I became the first woman in the organization to work in an executive position. I’m really thankful to my boss and the president to trust in me, but it’s very difficult. Before, there were no women with these responsibilities,” Carla says.
“Previously, when I was a sportscaster, I would hear comments from people like, ‘Really a woman?’ We’re just expected to be a pretty face, and wear short skirts, but not actually know about sports. As women, these are the challenges we face in sports media.”
In Mexico, Carla says that mothers raise their boys to become the breadwinners while girls are told to focus on marriage, having children, and learning domestic duties like cooking and cleaning. But Carla has overcome these stereotypes and wants to become a role model for girls in Hermosillo who wish to pursue a career in sports.
“I want to continue inspiring women in my region to take on sports careers, despite the stereotypes and obstacles.” says Carla about her goals for the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP). Through this program, Carla hopes to gain experiences in visual technology, as interactive media has become increasingly important in her role for the Naranjeros. Lastly, Carla seeks to better understand the sport systems in the United States and to strengthen her skills in marketing, promotions, and public relations.
There is no greater mentor for Carla than Marina Escobar, Vice President of Visual Technology for ESPN. Marina’s zest for life, her passion for her profession, and her commitment to increasing the number of women leaders in the industry will be invaluable to Carla and her aspirations for this program. During Marina’s 27 years in television, very few females in the industry were available to guide and support her professionally, especially in the early years. By serving as a mentor in this program, Marina hopes she can provide the support for her Emerging Leader that she needed in the early phases of her own career. Together, we believe Carla and Marina will forge a new path for little girls in Mexico, little girls who dream of careers in sports media and technology.
“That day in the ballpark changed me,” Carla says. “And now, I must find a way to make that happen for others. My dream is that after participating in this program, there will be many more girls who love baseball, football, basketball; that have opinions and voice those opinions, and ask for advice, and are part of the team.”
It’s scoring a game-winning shot at the buzzer. It’s stopping an opponent just shy of the goal. It’s the camaraderie of winning the title. It’s the heart-pounding magic that we have come to associate with sport.
Julie Paterson appreciates all the splendor and effort of high-performance sport. But, she also understands that it takes commitment and behind-the-scenes efforts for athletes and sports fans to experience these moments: “You have to have the right system, running efficiently, to make sports moments magical,” she says.
As the CEO of Netball Northern Zone in New Zealand, Julie has a wide range of responsibilities, from communicating with 17 independent netball centers in her zone, to securing sponsorships, game revenue and funding, to contracting professional athletes for the Northern Mystics, a major professional netball team managed by the organization. With a decade of experience as the CEO, Julie handles an annual operating budget of $2.5 million, with nine full-time staff reporting directly to her.
As a child, Julie played netball, New Zealand’s most popular women’s sport and a rival to rugby in terms of raw numbers of participants. But, she wasn’t as interested in playing sports herself as she was in making sure sports operated efficiently so that others could play. Julie works in this capacity at Netball Northern Zone, which reaches from South Auckland to the northern parts of the island inhabited by large numbers of the indigenous Maori people.
“In my experiences, sport has been a way to empower women, especially those from poor communities,” Julie says. “But it’s challenging. We’re always thinking creatively about how to make our sport more accessible to women who can’t afford to play it, giving women a pathway to succeed in life.”
One of Julie’s concerns, therefore, is the lack of funding given to netball in comparison to New Zealand’s other sports. The proportion of funding allocated to netball is less than half of that to rugby and less than other sports with far fewer participants. Julie wants to inspire private organizations to get involved in order to develop leadership programs and expand netball’s outreach for the social and economic empowerment of women in her country.
“Commercially we secure millions of dollars less than male sports,” Julie says. “We have a very strong commercial proposition in our elite netball game through live broadcast of the competition, as well as an opportunity to tap into our vast participation base, and yet we struggle to achieve anything near equitable support from businesses or other funders.”
Through the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), Julie hopes to gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of international sports administration. Furthermore, she plans to study the best approaches and practices around the commercialization and profit development of women’s sports in the United States. Ultimately, she seeks ways to make netball more accessible, especially for Maori and Pacific Island girls and girls from underserved areas in New Zealand.
With Julie’s experience as a CEO, coupled with her desire to increase funding for women’s sports and her passion to make sport more accessible, there is no better mentor than Deborah Slaner Larkin, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. Deborah has been working to advance women’s rights and female leadership opportunities for more than 30 years and loves encouraging aspiring female leaders. In addition, the Women’s Sports Foundation’s historical fight for equality in regards to sponsorship, pay, and media attention should offer valuable lessons for Julie as she advances the game of netball in New Zealand. Lastly, the Foundation’s Sport 4 Life program, dedicated to creating sports opportunities for girls in underserved communities, may prove especially beneficial to Julie as she tries to reach lower socio-economic regions in the North of New Zealand. We are excited to see how these two CEO’s develop a strategic plan of attack to ensure the growth of netball and the subsequent development of the girls and women who play it.
At 29 years old, Yasmian Al-Sharshani is a trailblazer and a pioneer for the game of golf and all female athletes in the Middle East. As one of only three registered female golfers in Qatar, Yasmian is forging new paths for Muslim women to pursue sport with grace, dignity, and honor.
According to Yasmian, the peace she finds on the golf course gives her greater appreciation and perspective for the challenges she faces in life. Golf is her “great escape,” a time to reflect and be one in body, spirit, and mind.
“In life, sometimes you have stress from outside, and when you have golf you have peace,” Yasmian says. “Golf has taught me how to focus and listen to people. It’s given me a strong character. Everyday there are different shots on the course, and there are new people to meet, so I am always learning something new.”
The sole female member of the Qatari National Golf team, Yasmian has her sights set on representing her country at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where golf returns after a 112 year absence. Since joining the team in 2008, she has competed in and won a handful of regional and local tournaments throughout Qatar, balancing her academic career and position as the events manager for the Qatar Museum Authority.
Yasmian understands that her story is unique and admits that it is often lonely being the only woman on the course. Opportunities for females to compete in sports in her country are limited, although she is fortunate to come from a family of dedicated athletes. Her father was a swimmer and jockey, her brother is a competitive drag racer and her sister is a Qatari skeet-shooting champion.
“It’s good for a person to know about the value of sport, for your mind and your life,” Yasmian says. “Most of the girls and women here, they go to school and then they go home and do not go outside. They have free time, and if we give them sport they can use that time in a better way.”
In 2013, Yasmian founded Qatar Golf Ladies (QGL), the first women’s center for golf in Qatar and the Middle East. The organization pursues community engagement through cultural and educational activities, and includes social, health and recreational elements for women and children. Months after launching QGL, Yasmian was awarded the 2013 Businesswoman of the Year award at the fourth annual Qatar International Businesswomen Forum.
Yasmian plans to launch her own company, Yasmian Events, following the conclusion of the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP). With her experience during GSMP as the springboard, she will also draw on her prior business and event management background and knowledge in organization and management from the time she spend completing a master’s degree at the International Olympic Academy to take on this endeavor. The company will focus on spreading awareness of the benefits of golf and other sports throughout Qatar.
“I want to continue playing golf for at least one more year, then focus on my business” Yasmian says. “For that, I need to learn more about marketing, how to attract more people to participate in the sport, and to broaden my reach to other organizations in Qatar.”
Rhona Aime, Chief Financial Officer, and Angela Schmelzer, Player Development Program Operations Coordinator, for the PGA of America are perfectly suited for this job. With their commitment to growing the game of golf and expertise in marketing and player development, the PGA of America can help Yasmian make her dreams a reality. In addition, Rhona’s business savvy coupled with Angela’s management and event expertise will undoubtedly make this experience a personal and professional milestone for Yasmian as she develops her own women’s golf organization. We look forward to watching future generations of Qatari women take to the greens, living out Yasmian’s dreams and the PGA’s vision to advance golf throughout the world.
Senior Vice President, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment
Vice President - Visual Technology Group, ESPN
Vice President of People Experience & Innovation, NBA
Executive Vice President, Club Business Affairs, NHL
Vice President - Affiliate Marketing, ESPN
Vice President and Group Media Director, Rubin Postaer and Associates (RPA)
Director - Partnership Strategy, WTA
Chief Diversity Officer, University of Central Florida
Group Director - Sponsorship & Experiential Marketing, Saatchi & Saatchi LA
Director of Training Sites & Community Partnerships, US Olympic Committee
Head of External Relations, Spurs Sports & Entertainment
Conference Manager, USTA
Head Women's Soccer Coach, University of Central Florida
President/CEO, Women's Sports Foundation
Program Operations Coordinator, PGA of America
Chief Financial Officer, PGA of America
Chief Marketing Officer, Big East Conference
EVP, Global Chief Commercial Officer, DoubleVerify
Commissioner, Big East Conference
Vice President, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment