How to Navigate being a Woman in the Sports Industry

by Jordyn Kovolyan: Manager of The Foundation at Cleveland Cavaliers
March 08, 2023

The sports world celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX in 2022. Prior to this landmark legislation that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, the role of women in the sport industry was undefined. Title IX brought to life the importance of gender equality in the sport industry.

As a female athlete from my childhood through high school and now working in the Front Office of the Cleveland Cavaliers, I am thankful for the women who came before me and pioneered the path, so I could be in the role I am today. Having been in the business operations side of the sports industry for over five years, I have lifted – and been uplifted by – colleagues and mentors and have learned many valuable lessons that I want to share.

Whether you are a female who is excited by the possibility of working in the sports industry, a female who has already broken into the sports industry, or an ally to females working in the sports industry, here are some action items that can inspire and empower you, too:

1.     Celebrate.

Find reasons to celebrate the importance of Women in Sports. Luckily our industry has a few celebrations already in place with National Girls & Women in Sports Day (typically in early February) and Women’s History Month (March), but we can always do better. Find reasons to post on social channels about your experience being a female in the industry. Not only does this celebrate you and your role, but it also shows other girls and women that they too can be a female in the sports industry. Also, find ways to celebrate and encourage other women. My personal favorites are to send a handwritten note, email, text, etc. thanking the women in sports in my life for their contributions to the industry or even just to let them know I am thinking about them. A note of gratitude and appreciation goes a long way.


2.     Find a female sponsor and mentor.

This advice was given to me recently and has made a huge impact on how I choose to show up as a role model, leader, and teammate. It is so pivotal to find a female sponsor AND, separately, a female mentor. What’s the difference you ask? A sponsor is advocating and speaking for you; they are your champion and are helping you advance your career and brand while you’re not “in the room”. These can be your boss, other leaders in the organization, or even your teammates. Separately, a mentor is pivotal to your development and advancement in the industry. A mentor is someone who speaks directly to you and helps you develop and refine your skills and leadership style. This is a person you can go to for advice or direction, and you build trust by having honest conversations. It is great if you can find a sponsor and a mentor that is a female, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. There are plenty of allies that can help you along your path as a female in this industry. Cherish these people. theClubhouse® has an amazing benefit with a list of mentors in the industry that you can reach out to and schedule time with to talk, if you don’t know where to start, start here!


3.     Bring other women up with you.

Naturally, many women who work in sports have a competitive nature, so it is easy to see other females as your competition. However, it is important to change your mindset and lift each other up. Help make each other better. Bring others up with you. It’s even more important that when you establish influence in any group to advocate for other women, you will then become that sponsor or mentor to help the next generation of females in this industry. Remember, affirmation and praise of other women in the industry doesn’t take away from you, it only helps you both advance in this industry.


4.     Get Involved in an all-women’s networking group.

Getting involved in an all-women’s networking group will help you to create your network. Do you have a local Women in Sports and Entertainment (WISE) chapter? Does your company have an all-women Employee Resource Group (ERG)? If there is a WISE chapter, join it and participate! You will be able to network with other women in the sports and entertainment industry, while learning valuable information about an array of topics and industry trends. If your company has an all-women ERG, join it! If your company doesn’t, talk with your Human Resources (HR) department and other influential women about creating one. Having intentional programing and events focused on women in the company creates a collaborative environment that allows women to rise up and #LetEmKnow.


5.     Network.

This one may seem cliché, however it is beyond important. Creating connections in this industry will help you advance your career more than you are even aware. You never know where a connection will take you. If you don’t know where to start, LinkedIn is a good place. Do you research on industry professionals specifically in the discipline you are interested and send a connection with a personalized note. Let them know you are looking to network with industry professionals and learn more about their path and their role. And the question you should end every networking call with: “Who would you recommend I reach out and network with next?” After a few you will have a group of people that become mentors and sponsors.

When you look across our industry, more and more women are taking Director, Vice President, and C-Level roles, and that is inspiring. When I look towards my own future, seeing women in these roles helps me and many other women visualize being in those roles, too.

If you are looking for advice on starting/improving your all-women’s networking groups, finding a female sponsor/mentor, or simply want to chat more on the importance of celebrating females in the sports industry, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!

The future is female, and it’s incredibly bright.