Master of Science in Sport Management Online

Women in Sports

When you think about women in sports, who comes to mind? If your first thought is of, say, a record-shattering tennis star, you’re not alone. But can you name a powerful female sports executive? How about a woman coaching a professional men’s team? Women are breaking ground in sports at every level, on and off the field. Here are four names you should know.

Serena Williams

Image via Flickr by Marianne Bevis

Serena Williams isn’t a legend in women’s tennis — she’s a legend in tennis, period. She has 36 Grand Slam titles; 21 in singles, and 15 with her champion sister, Venus. (The only two players, male or female, with more singles Grand Slams are Stefi Graf at 22 and Margaret Court at 24.) By comparison, an American male tennis player hasn’t won a Grand Slam since 2003. And if that isn’t impressive enough, Williams also has three Olympic gold medals.

Lesa France Kennedy

Look at any list of the most powerful women in sports, and you’ll see Lesa France Kennedy’s name. You could say she was destined for a career in sport management; her grandfather was NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., her father its long-time leader Bill France Jr., and her brother Brian is NASCAR’s current CEO.

That said, Kennedy has earned her place at the top. In her role as CEO of International Speedway Corporation, she manages 13 of the biggest racetracks in the United States, and is credited with leading the expansion of the ISC from its base in the south throughout the northeast, midwest, and beyond. She also serves as Vice Chair of NASCAR.

Becky Hammon

Image via Flickr by rwoan

At five feet, six inches tall, Becky Hammon doesn’t look like a basketball player, which makes her career with the WNBA New York Liberty all the more impressive. She helped the team reach three finals, and is the Liberty’s second-highest all-time scorer. In 2014, Hammon made history by becoming the first female full-time assistant coach in the NBA, signing on with the San Antonio Spurs. In the summer of 2015, she upped the ante by becoming the NBA’s first female head coach in Summer League, and punctuated her accomplishment by leading the Spurs to victory.

Christine Driessen

When Driessen joined ESPN as controller in 1985, the company operated one 24-hour cable channel. Today, the sports giant has eight cable networks and multiple radio, digital, publishing, location-based, and multiplatform channels. Now ESPN’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Christine Driessen is credited with a large share of that growth.

She brokered rights deals with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the Pac-12 and Big 12 college sports organizations, the Orange, Sugar, and Rose Bowls, U.S. Open Tennis, British Open and Masters golf, and more. She spearheaded distribution deals with major media companies, including Time Warner, Charter Communications, and AT&T U-Verse. Worth more than $40 billion, ESPN is now the world’s most highly valued media company.

Formidable as they are, these four names represent just a handful of the remarkable women changing the face of sports all over the world. As they continue to break barriers and challenge the status quo, their accomplishments will undoubtedly push them further into the spotlight and carry them onward to new challenges.