Day 2 of #SIGAWomen Summit on Female Leadership in Sport started with a panel on “The Power of Mentorship”, designed to flag SIGA Global Mentorship Programme.

Nicole Jeter West, CEO, underdog, was the moderator, and after watching video messages from 2021 & 2022 mentees gave the floor to Katie Simmonds, SIGA’s Global COO, and managing Director #SIGAWomen.

“Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros [SIGA Global CEO] has been a mentor to me. During my career, I’ve learned from many people, with good and bad examples of leadership. This programme taught me to listen. Today, I can say we created a powerful and meaningful community. All goes back to and is underpinned by our Universal Standards. We wanted to create a safe space for girls. Last year, Sarah Solemale, who works for FIFA, shared with me she needed a place where she could ask some questions she didn’t feel comfortable asking. This programme is open to women aged 24  or over, and has gone 100% digital. Mentees are paired with mentors with similar interests, anywhere in the world. We leave for them to communicate, and SIGA arranges 8 sessions to discuss relevant issues – last year one of the most relevant ones was sexual harassment and discrimination”.

Amazingly or not, none of the speakers in this panel had mentors in early stages of their careers. However, they are now mentors. Anna Blanchard, North America Sponsorships, Mastercard, shared her experience with the audience: “I never had specific mentors, although a lot of women have been available. That was very important at some points, and because of that I try to be available to answer the questions of people who reach me, for example on LinkedIn.”

‘If you can see it you can be it’ was one of the strongest ideas discussed on the panel. Anna explained how that became true to her: “I was born and raised in Brazil, where I didn’t have examples of people I wanted to be like. I moved to the US, and studied here. Then, I was lucky to start working at ESPN, and started seeing women in those roles. Some worked and were mothers. I remember that seeing them made me realise I could do it too.”

Renee Brown, Principal Chief-Executive Officer, Renee M. Brown Inc.; Advisory Board Member, SIGA AMERICA; former SVP of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, WNBA, contributed to the discussion with an interesting idea: “The key to mentorship is not the mentor, is the mentee. The mentee must be willing to do the work. My mentorships started with my mother, as I saw a strong black woman… When I had the opportunity to go to WNBA I thought that was something I had to do, to be an example for other girls. ‘Yes, I can be a senior vice-president at WNBA’. I wanted to be able to show women they can do it. O think Mentorship should be a space where women feel confident to come and speak with you. This is why I say: Ladies, it is your responsibility to bring young leaders”.

The second panel of the day – “Sport for development: Empowering Girls Now!” – was the natural follow up of the Mentorship debate. After all, mentorship is a way of empowering girls, giving them the tools to succeed in the industry.

Sally Nnamani, US Director of Programs & Partnerships, PeacePlayers International, moderated the conversation with in-person guests Danielle Hundt, CEO, Play Rugby USA, and Shana R. Stephenson, Chief Brand Officer, NY Liberty; and remote speakers Susan Warner, Talent and Community Engagement, Founder, Girls4tech, Mastercard, and Caitlin Morris, Vice-President, Social & Community Impact, Nike.

“Despite not having an athletic career, sport had impact in my life. I recognise how sport is an important tool for empowering young girls. We partner with organisations that develop girls outside of sport, and we are always thinking about career development, to let the girls know who they are. Last year we paired our WNBA athletes with high-school age girls, and allowed the players to interview them. It was interesting to see how they concluded there were so many similarities. How do we teach girls to be confident about themselves? There is so much going on social media, that it is crucial to have these conversations. The New York Liberty and WNBA have been on the forefront of leading sports justice. Each year we recognise this is something we need to continue. When we talk about players being the leaders of movements, the Liberty led by example, as we try to center women in everything we do”, Shana R. Stephenson stated.

Coming from Rugby, Daniele Hundt presented her sport as an effective way to empower women: “Rugby is an incredible tool to feel leadership skills, body confidence, conflict resolution… Playing Rugby, we are building soft skills for women, things that are going to help them on the classroom and on boardroom. What makes Rugby unique is that there isn’t a star position. Everybody passes, everybody does defence play…”

From a brand like Nike perspective, empowering girls is part of their social responsibility programme. Caitlin Morris shared her insights on the topic: “We’re not going to get more women in Sport if we don’t have more girls in Sport. From a brand perspective, our mission is to bring inspiration to every athlete in the World. And by this I mean elite athletes, everyday athletes, and our employees. The elite athlete really has an active voice in partnership with Nike. To us, it’s not about the product, but about creating a culture of acceptance when wearing the product. We decided to change perception that women are more emotional, or crazy. We did this t-shirt with Serena saying she is the greatest athlete, instead of saying Greatest Female Athlete, for example…”

Suzanne Warner founded for Mastercard the Girls4Tech programme, one of the ways the company found to promote women leadership and gender equity, back in 2013. “The goal was to engage employees. We wanted to connect with what they were passionate about, so they could be role models and mentors for girls all over the world. We now cover 50 countries, 2 million girls, and we translated the programme to 20 languages. Once you teach one, it keeps spreading. There’s not a girl in the world that enters our building saying they wants to be a fraud detective, but they do on their way out. We also created girls4tech and Sports. We started with softball, baseball, we added golf, tennis, football and the latest is rugby. Our goal is to connect sport with cutting edge technology”.

The final panel of the #SIGAWomen Summit on Female Leadership in Sport was planned to focus on men. More exactly, on the importance of finding male allies to gender equity and female leadership in Sport. Christine Franklin, Executive Vice-President, Octagon, moderated the discussion with Michael Robichaud, Senior Vice-President, Global Sponshorships, Mastercard; David Haggerty, President, International Tennis Federation; Marc Riccio, CEO USA Lacrosse and Member, SIGA AMERICA Advisory Board; and Rich Gotham, President, Boston Celtics.

“When I started in marketing, more than half of my bosses were women, and I had a great first boss who taught me. We started at Mastercard 10 years ago with this notion of inclusion. It started geographically, then it was culturally, and kept growing and growing. The part that I had to become more aware is to be more thoughtful. How should I think about this? How do you think about this? Is there other way of thinking about this? When you leave the country, definition is broad… When it comes to work, we have to be open to different points of view”, explained Michael Robichaud, when asked about how does he feel about championing equity.

Marc Riccio’s career path was somehow similar, and that is why he is so aware of the words he use… “My first job had a lot of women. I grew up in that environment. I think we have to ask lots of questions, not assuming anything. So, I ask questions, and that helps me understand people situations. One thing I leard is that as a leader there’s no throw-away comments. Be very aware and realise that. When I was young, I was trying to understand my mother job. Unintentionally I used the word ‘just’ in front of what she was doing. Later she came to me and told me I had hurt her feelings with that. That’s why I say there’s no throw-away comments. What you say matters.”

David Haggerty flagged ITF’s actions to implement gender equity… “We have a programme which we call Advantage All, designed to make sure tennis is an equal sport for all. From gender equality perspective we set some targets that we strive for. It’s in the boardroom, where we want to have a minimum 30 per cent women by 2023, 40 per cent on commissions. When you look at tennis officials, coaches, we can do so much more. We had a programme called I pledged where 53 of our national association presidents pledged to mentor, helping to give more opportunities to talented women. In our staff we have around 50 per cent women, and that helps our decision making.”

Also interesting was Rich Gotham experience. The Boston Celtics president admitted he hasn’t always been focused on gender equity… “When I was young, I never differentiated the women’s view of the world from the men’s view of the world in the workplace. I was driven forward, always focused on results. Over the years I understood women have a different experience than men on the workplace, and if you don’t understand that, you can’t get the most out of those women and help them be successful. The key to empowering is to be thoughtful, intentional, and aware that women in the workplace have a different set of needs than men. To be a leader today you have to be very conscious of your words and your actions. You must think about everyone in your organisation. It is about being aware, making sure, before you open your big mouth, what is about to come out and how will it be perceived”.

When asked what the Celtics do to promote Women Basketball, he gave a curious answer: “We don’t own a WNBA team, and that is a good thing, because it’s easier to be supportive without looking to our own interests. We have 20+ Million social media followers, we have good opportunity to get on the right side of almost any subject. We celebrated women’s month in a match this week. Each of our players spoke about who is their favourite WNBA player, and it was great.”

Anita Bathia closing remarks

Gabriela Ramos closing remarks

​Franco Frattini closing remarks






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