Kim Azzarelli's Book On Women And Power Applies To Sports World, Too
The book, "Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose," isn't technically about sports.
But it might as well be.
Authors Melanne Verveer and Kim Azzarelli make the case for why now is the time for women around the world to take center stage and harness their potential to fuel economic growth. The book's data-supported premise is that when women are in positions of economic power, they more frequently funnel resources back into their communities. And the result is that progress is fast-forwarded.
So how does this relate to the sports world?
Below are five quotes from the book, with context on how these ideas are applicable to women in sports. Additionally, Azzarelli will address using power for purpose as part of a Q&A session Thursday, during the 2015 espnW: Women + Sports Summit. Check out the event livestream.
1. "Corporate executives and government leaders alike are waking up to the fact that women are drivers of both economic growth and social progress. Armed with the data, women and men leading communities, nonprofits, companies and countries are increasingly making the case for putting women at the center of their strategies." -- Fast Forward, Page 5.
Don't overlook the inclusion of both women and men. Throughout the book, the authors show how crucial men are to doing this work, how necessary it is to have allies in positions of power who understand the value in championing women. The same holds true within sports, whether it's launching a league (the NBA supporting the WNBA) or a female brand (ESPN supporting espnW). This is not about women ripping away power, but rather people working together to get the best and brightest in positions to succeed to make the entire enterprise stronger.
2. "If a country doesn't use all of its talent, it's like fighting in a ring with one hand behind your back. It's the laws of arithmetic. You can't afford to just marginalize one group, certainly not half of your economy." -- Robert Hormats, Page 13
Perhaps Ronda Rousey could win with one hand behind her back, but the rest of us need all our resources at our disposal. Take, for example, the NFL of two years ago. Because the league had so few women in positions of power, so few women whose voices were being heard at the league level, the NFL had a blind spot: how it punished athletes arrested for interpersonal violence. That blind spot would have been less likely to exist if the NFL had more women at the table, if it employed the most talented people -- not just the most talented men.
In the year since the NFL's domestic violence scandal, women have entered the sports world in unprecedented ways, in large part because sports leaders are realizing the value of diverse viewpoints.
3. "Once businesses are off the ground, the next step is growth. This is where business expansion skills and later-stage capital becomes imperative. One telling statistic demonstrates how difficult it is for women to scale up: Although women-owned businesses represent nearly 30 percent of American firms, they generate less than 4 percent of total revenue." -- Fast Forward, Page 105
Many people assume female athletes, and women's professional leagues, aren't as popular because people just aren't into them. Well, just like in the above quote, sometimes more insidious issues are at play. As the book goes on to explain, female business owners often struggle to find venture capital simply because women often don't exist in the same social networks as men, and because the majority of venture capitalists are men.
When trying to sell women's sports, sometimes a chicken-and-egg dilemma is also at play. According to a recent study of media, only 4 percent of airtime is dedicated to women's sports. So are people not into women's sports because there is so little media coverage? Or is there little media coverage because people aren't into women's sports?
We don't yet know the answer because no media outlet has ever spent a year flipping the script -- covering women's sports 96 percent of the time.
4. "Because I played some parts along the way that really resonated with women, I became keenly aware of how few opportunities we give audiences to feel excited and inspired by the female character." -- Geena Davis, Page 169
As we've said repeatedly, this is what sells sports: storylines. Davis starred in movies such as "A League of Their Own'' and "Thelma and Louise,'' both with strong female protagonists. And she realized how rare that was in Hollywood.
That idea translates directly to women's sports: We rarely introduce layered, nuanced female athletes to mainstream audiences, often because of the limited resources (time and money) that the media dedicates to women's sports. And so often, when someone is going to cover female athletes, they rely on stereotypes or tropes: the role model, the vixen, the girl next door.
So rather than exciting the audience about a female athlete, the result can often feel one-dimensional and tired.
5. "Hollywood pretty much operates under the assumption that women will watch men, but men will not watch women, and they apply that to kids, too." -- Davis, Page 170.
In Hollywood, they've started to realize that the above is more myth than fact, especially in the wake of the success of female-driven movies such as "Bridesmaids'' and "Pitch Perfect.'' Yet the above quote is often still taken as fact within the sports world: Women will watch men's sports, but not vice versa.
This despite recent proof to the contrary, including the U.S. women's soccer team's World Cup title, or the fact that the U.S. Open tennis final sold out before the men's because people were anticipating watching Serena Williams go for a calendar-year Grand Slam.
When women's sports do crossover to the mainstream, many people will disregard this as an anomaly, rather than evidence that our accepted myths about women's sports might need reassessing.
Take the Power and Purpose Quiz!
Want success and meaning in your life? The new book, "Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose," tells you how to do just that.
To get started on your journey, take the quiz below, and see how your outlook matches up with some of the world's most inspiring women leaders. Just pick the quote that resonates with you, then find out which amazing women uttered those words.