It has been heartening to see the renewed interest in women’s sports in the last few years. Even being able to watch women’s sports on television was once a rare treat. Now, thanks to a long-overdue shift in the minds of the broadcasters, we are able to watch many more events and female athletes – in prime time.
A shift in the societal mindset has convinced those broadcasters that women’s sports should not be considered niche or anything less than men’s events. There seems to have been a realization that everyone wants the chance to watch the best athletes in the world, whether they are male or female. The top online sportsbooks are quite happy to feature women’s sports, and now everyone can enjoy them.
Part of this shift surely has to go down to the women who have strived to make it to the top of sporting organizations around the world. Once again, all of this is very overdue. But with greater representation = on and off the field of play – women can have a bigger voice in sports and more visibility. Here, we celebrate seven of the most powerful women in sports today.
Soccer has led the way when it comes to female representation in sports in the US, and Angela Hucles is one of the most visible at the top of the game. A former pro and a USWNT player with over 100 appearances for her country, Hucles has continued to be just as influential in organizing soccer as she was on the field.
After retiring from playing the game in 2009, Hucles set about raising the standards of US soccer and was also part of a US Department of State envoy to Morocco to promote greater inclusion through sport. She is currently the vice president of player development and operations at Angle City FC, a NWSL team with majority female ownership.
A college softball player at the University of Chicago, Ng worked her way up in the front offices of the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers – two of the biggest teams in baseball – before making history in 2020. Ng became the first-ever woman to serve as a general manager in the big four leagues in the US.
The Miami Marlins were the team that gave Ng the chance. But, to be honest, she was already vastly overqualified for the role and has recently decided to quit the organization ahead of the 2024 season after learning that the Marlins were set to bring in a new person who would effectively make her second in command.
She may have had a helping hand getting into the business from her father, but Jeanie Buss has worked hard to keep such a high profile in sports and became the first female controlling owner to win an NBA championship when the Lakers won it all in 2020.
Buss had taken over the Lakers with her siblings when her father died in 2013. She had previously run a pro tennis team and owned a pro roller hockey team. She has not been afraid of making big decisions, including bringing in Magic Johnson as president, and is also the co-owner and promoter of Women in Wrestling.
Shelia Crump Johnson
A self-made billionaire who was a co-founder of BET, Sheila Crump Johnson has proved that she can do just about everything. She is the first African-American female to be an owner or partner in three different sports franchises – the Mystics of the WNBA, the Wizards of the NBA, and the Capitals of the NHL.
You may have noticed a distinct Washington vibe from her sports businesses, but Johnson also founded a hospitality group that runs a host of high-profile golf clubs and resorts across the country, as well as in the Caribbean. In 2019, she was honored with the Billie Jean King Leadership Award.
Roberts grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx and became one of the most influential people in sports when she became the first woman to hold the office of executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBAP), as well as being an American attorney.
Roberts was named one of the 21 Most Powerful Women in the Business of Sports in 2021. Although she retired from the NBAP last year, she has continued to exert her influence in law after originally building a fearsome reputation as a trial lawyer before moving into the sports world.
Women are making their presence felt on and off the field
Cynthia Marshall, better known as Cynt after her high school track team nickname – “Cynt the Sprint” – endured a harrowing childhood but promised herself and her siblings that they would all be successful one day. It is fair to say that she was right on that one.
After studying at the University of California, Berkeley, Marshall worked at AT&T for almost 40 years, focusing on diversity and improving workplace behavior. She was then headhunted by Mark Cuban to be a CEO at the Dallas Mavericks, becoming the first African-American female CEO in the process.
A film producer who credits her background in bodybuilding as giving her the skills to succeed in business, Dany Garcia has consistently achieved greatness in any career move she has wanted to make. As well as having her name on a long list of film credits, Garcia has also made inroads into the sports industry.
She actually met Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson when they were both at the University of Miami. Although they are now divorced, Garcia has been able to keep in with the same sports business interests and became the first woman to own an equal or majority stake in a US professional sports league when she acquired the XFL in 2020.