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Female firsts: Women in sports shattering the glass ceiling

Hi friends,

One of our friends and empowHERed mentors, Caroline Fitzgerald, tells a story about the moment she decided she was never going to let her ceiling be determined by her gender. Jokingly calling it to her villain origin story, she shares how when she was very little, she and her older brother played on the same tee ball team. When she showed up to the first game, she was shocked to hear the little boys on the opposing team declaring that they were definitely going to win because they were playing a girl. Caroline remembers being confused. She was better than her brother and couldn't understand why she would be considered a lesser competitor simply because she was a girl. So she did what any self-respecting athlete would do - she showed out on the diamond. To hear her tell it, she threw out all three batters in the top of the first, or as she likes to call it, "the fastest inning in baseball history". Is it any wonder that this is the same woman who now runs a platform dedicated to elevating women's sports and female athletes?

While the story itself may have been exaggerated with time, it highlights one of the driving forces behind empowHERed, this idea that women are more than capable of occupying the same spaces, doing the same jobs, and reaching the same heights as men. Now more than ever, we are seeing women in sports shattering the glass ceiling and assuming positions that have historically been reserved for their male counterparts. As such, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some of the latest female trailblazers who are breaking down barriers in what is still a male-dominated industry. 

  • Jennifer King - King has been breaking barriers in the NFL for years, most recently becoming the first female coach in the Chicago Bears' 104-year history. After spending years as a player in the Women's Football Alliance (WFA), King met then-Panthers head coach Ron Rivera at the NFL Women's Forum and expressed interest in coaching. He later hired her as a coaching intern in Carolina and then brought her with him to the Commanders. There, she became the first Black woman to be named a full-time NFL coach, serving as the assistant runnings back coach, the same role she now holds with the Bears. King has helped blaze a path for other women in the NFL, as there are now 12 females in full-time coaching positions.

  • Jenny Cavnar - Amidst all of the negative storylines coming out of Oakland, Cavnar provided a bright spot this offseason when NBC Sports announced that the company planned to make her the first female lead play-by-play announcer in MLB history. A five-time Emmy award-winner and the 2021 Colorado Sportscaster of the Year, Cavnar spent the last 12 seasons with the Rockies in various roles, including pre-/post-game host, reporter, and back-up play-by-play announcer.

  • Caitlin Clark - I'm writing this in the middle of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, just before Iowa's Sweet 16 matchup and a few days after it was leaked that Ice Cube had made Clark a $5-million offer to play in the BIG3. Naturally, we have to give her a shout out. A generational talent and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft, she holds both the NCAA's all-time and single-season scoring records and has helped elevate women's basketball to new heights. According to data from the Seton Hall Sports Poll, Clark is also the most recognizable player in college basketball, men's or women's. 

  • Kim Ng - A personal role model of mine, Ng became the first female general manager of any North American professional sports team and the first East Asian GM in MLB history in 2020. After being passed over for multiple GM openings in previous years, she was hired by the Marlins. In 2023, coming off back-to-back 90+-loss seasons, she helped engineer a complete turnaround, leading the team to the postseason. While she and the team parted ways in the offseason, Ng's appointment led the way for countless other women in sports. 

These are just a few of the women who have inspired us throughout our journeys in sports. As we continue to build empowHERed, our goal is to help our members reach those same heights and, perhaps even more importantly, pay it forward to the next generation. 

To our fellow women in sports, keep pushing and blazing your own trail.

And remember, you're awesome and you belong here. 

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