Business Insights & Inspiration
Meet WNBA President Laurel Richie
June 23, 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark law providing girls and women equal access in the fields of education and athletics. Although the law does not specifically refer to equality in sports, it has had a very strong impact in that arena. We spoke with Laurel J. Richie, the first African American president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA),
about Title IX
and its impacts. Richie brings more than 25 years of marketing and advertising experience to the WNBA, following her passion of marketing to women and girls and contributing to the ongoing success of the organization. Richie shares with us her insights about female athletes in our culture and the future of the WNBA. She also offers some striking advice to girls and women as they strive to discover their own path in life.
WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY DUTIES OF YOUR JOB AS PRESIDENT OF THE WNBA? WHAT IS A TYPICAL WORKDAY LIKE FOR YOU?
A: My primary duty is to grow and develop the league, making sure it maintains high quality play and competition. I see a lot of value in working with our partners, and making sure we are doing everything possible to get access to our players and content for all media outlets. I also make sure that we are listening to our fans, and creating an enjoyable in-arena WNBA experience for all ages, from eight to 80!
A typical workday includes lots of meetings, phone calls and travel. I have a great team which makes my day-to-day life much easier. I partner with my team and we work to create opportunities and solve problems. I also spend a lot of time thinking about and engaging with fans, as well as our sponsors. I am constantly looking for opportunities for the league, as well as ways to get more visibility for our players.
I am still adjusting to my role as president, and it has been a terrific experience! I am working with 12 teams across the country and individuals who know a lot about our business, and everyone has been helpful in sharing insight and experience. I enjoy spending time with the fans, learning what they love and learning how to keep them engaged and interested. It has also been amazing getting to know the players—132 women who are amazing on and off the court. I love going into the community with players, doing health and wellness programs and providing inspiration and mentoring programs to young girls.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT HOW TITLE IX HAS POSITIVELY IMPACTED FEMALE ATHLETES?
Title IX has a very significant impact on female athletes and has created great opportunities for women to develop their skills and abilities. As the WNBA enters its 16th consecutive season, we are very grateful for the existence of Title IX. Women are able to compete in the professional arena, and the impact of Title IX even has a positive impact on women who are
not professional athletes. Children engaged in physical activity at an early age do better in school, lead a healthier lifestyle and are more likely to stay engaged in physical activity as adults—an opportunity Title IX helped to create. I think Title IX has had an important and impressive impact on sports and educational opportunities, and it was designed to create opportunities in sports and beyond.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE IMAGE OF FEMALE ATHLETES IN OUR CULTURE?
A: I think female athletes are terrific role models! They represent women who are disciplined, skilled—especially to compete at the level they compete at—and who are great at setting and achieving goals. I feel great about how female athletes are viewed in our culture, and the way young girls look up to them.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE TO YOUNG GIRLS WHO WANT TO BECOME PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS?
A: I am a big believer in following your passion, and venues like the Boys and Girls Club and Girl Scouts provide lots of opportunities for young girls to gain access to sports. The beauty of sports is that it’s all about hard work and discipline to develop your skills to
compete and grow. You are also able to develop a strong sense of self, and I think it’s wonderful that there is a league for women who are highly skilled and can participate in it.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF THE WNBA? WHAT ARE A FEW THINGS THAT READERS CAN DO TO SUPPORT THE LEAGUE AND ITS MEMBERS?
A: There are lots of great things happening to celebrate and accelerate the work done in the WNBA. Our goal is to focus on three key factors: attendance, viewership and partnership.
You can support the league by simply going to a game, because once you see a game you’ll be hooked! It’s competitive and fun, and being in the arena and experiencing a live game is a memorable experience. If you don’t live in a city with a team you can always watch it on television (ESPN is our broadcast partner), and the games are always available online and on mobile devices.