Throughout my career in sports, I've kind of gotten used to being one of the only women in the room. Whether in a locker room, at a ballpark, at a radio studio or in a press box, I've done the majority of my work surrounded by a bunch of guys. When I get time to see my girlfriends, we're rarely talking about the holes in the Bears' offensive line or precipitous fall of the Red Sox, but instead catching up on "real" life: my life off the field and off the air.
The espnW Summit is a chance for ladies like me to be one of many women in the room, all of whom want to talk sports and real life.
The women here in Tucson are impressive, to say the least. Olympic medalists, NCAA coaches, award-winning writers and serious game-changers (lookin' at you, Billie Jean). Women who have been deeply and truly touched by sport, and who have incredible stories to tell and ideas to share.
From Julie Foudy, who told of taking a stand to make things better for all female soccer players, to Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who refuses to let institutions treat Title IX like a punishment for men's sports. Robin Roberts, via satellite, sharing how sports helped her kick cancer's butt, and Billie Jean King preaching that women's achievements in sport can no longer be overlooked, that we can no longer be happy settling for "the crumbs."
There are even a few good men, too. Like Dr. Richard Lapchick, who told of the mental and physical pain he's endured in his lifelong efforts to see equality for all races and genders in sport. And ESPN President George Bodenheimer, who proved the company's commitment to this endeavor by putting his all-important stamp of approval on our "modest" goal of becoming the worldwide leader in women's sports coverage.
This week, for the first time since my college track days, I feel like I'm on a team again. We're all in this together, all trying to find the best ways to serve female fans, promote and support female athletes and build and grow female sports leagues. And unlike so many times before, when we speak up about pay inequalities or sexist advertising or underserved female athletes, we're not one tiny voice in a room full of doubters, we're one of many voices, all of whom get it -- and want to fix it.
The relationships we're forming are just as important as the business items we're discussing. I talked to Summer Sanders and Bonnie Bernstein about finding new ways to jump-start my workout routine (Crossfit, they say) and I hiked amongst some deadly cacti with Michelle Beadle and Linda Cohn.
Like any team, we need that chemistry in order to succeed. Putting faces and voices with bylines and Twitter handles is a huge step toward working together toward a common goal, no matter the company or team for which we work. An idea as big and ambitious as espnW can seem overwhelming on paper or via conference calls from miles away. After spending time with a group of women this powerful and this motivated, it seems impossible to imagine anything less than great success.
It may not come today or tomorrow, but a steady push from all the members of our team can bring about real change. Like Billie Jean said today, "It's the grunt work. The daily drip. That makes the difference."