Philadelphia has long been known as a city of sports. Its iconic teams have inspired generations, and now they’re taking the lead in paving the way for gender equity in the industry, encouraging wider participation and inclusion of women and girls in sports.
Major sports teams, including the 76ers, Eagles, Phillies and Flyers have pioneered efforts aimed at breaking down barriers, encouraging inclusivity and diversity, and empowering women to move up through the ranks in the sports world. Through various programs and initiatives, each of these teams are making significant strides in narrowing the gender gap and creating a more equal playing field for everyone.
The Philadelphia Eagles are investing in girls’ futures in sports with programs investing in sports bras and launching a girls flag football league. Tina D’Orazio, senior vice president and chief of staff to the chairman/CEO, says that “the benefits that come with participating in sports should be extended equally to both boys and girls of all ages. These two ongoing programs [aim to remove] the barriers to competition so that all girls can participate in sports, particularly football.”
Another team, the Philadelphia 76ers, are also making remarkable progress. Liz Jenkins, manager of scouting operations for the team, explains the various ways the 76ers are trying to make basketball more welcoming for girls. The Junior 76ers recently ran a Her Time to Play clinic with the NBA, hosting over 100 girls from the ages of 7-18, helping them get into basketball and furthering their opportunities. Vitally, for the program they “had an all female coaching staff. [They’re] putting female coaches in positions to inspire the next generation,” Jenkins says.
At 76ers games themselves, the organization has made a conscious effort to include more women and girls throughout home games. “We highlight women in different promotions during time outs, there’s a ticket assist program where we help with tickets for groups of girls, for example from girls basketball teams, come and watch games and be immersed in the basketball world… [and we have both] girls and boys at center court at the start of the game,” Jenkins says. During time-outs, they also have in-game programs specifically honoring women serving in the military.
One of the team’s most visible pushes for the inclusion of women comes in the form of Kate Scott, one of their sportscasters. In 2021, Scott joined the team as a television play-by-play announcer. With this position, she became the second woman ever to have a full-time play-by-play role for a major league men’s team. Scott’s career has progressed far with the 76ers. Jenkins says that “when she first came in there was a lot of pushback, but it’s cool to see how people’s opinions have changed now that they know how excellent she is. The Sixers prioritized having that female voice.”
When it comes to promoting women on the business side of basketball, the 76ers hosted a women in sports and entertainment panel for high school girls, showing examples of women in sports, entertainment, and business roles at the organization. They aimed to give the girls real world examples of women doing impressive work for the 76ers and other major sports organizations. Jenkins says that they were “setting an expectation that the business and sports world is diverse and they can have a seat at that table.”
These real world examples can be seen in other teams too, like the Philadelphia Flyers, where their “executive leadership team is half women, and on any given night we have over 60 female employees in essential roles in game presentation, community relations, events, ticketing, and public relations,” Cindy Stutman, senior vice president of community relations and executive director for Flyers Charities, says.
Although strides have been made, there’s still much more work to be done. Jenkins thinks that we’re at a precipice where “all women in sports are really poised to pick up this mantle and push sports forwards in general.” While more women can be seen on the business operations side of sports, Jenkins would like to see many more women being placed in games operations. There are only five other women across the NBA who are in scouting roles like hers, so she’d particularly “love to see more opportunities for basketball related roles which are usually held by men… and for women to be making more decisions [on the court].”
For decades, major leagues have been dominated by men. Thankfully, due to the excellence of women and the support of their male allies throughout the industry, that inequality has started to shift. Powerful women are taking the reigns throughout Philly’s teams. Both in front of house and business roles, more women than ever are in positions of influence, and are creating lasting change for future generations.