Women in the sports technology industry are vastly underrepresented. Less than 30% of employees in the field are women or people of color. Organizations like Women in Sports Tech (WiST) tackle the diversity gap for both women and employers through fellowship and leadership programs.
“Women make up 50% of the U.S. labor force, sports fans and athletes — and yet the representation of women working in sports tech is a small fraction of that,” says Marilou McFarlane, Founder and CEO of WiST. “I founded Women in Sports Tech (WiST) to connect women at all career stages to meaningful professional opportunities in the sports tech field.”
Comcast partners with WiST to support its Fellowship program, which provides grants for summer internships, networking and career opportunities for women in the industry.
For Mikaela Handler, the WiST Fellowship provided a career-making opportunity. With a background in kinesiology and life-long interest in athletics, the Texas native graduated from North Texas University with an MBA in sport entertainment management. She applied for the WiST Fellowship and was accepted and placed in an 8-week internship with Comcast Spectacor’s gaming entertainment network G4 in June 2021.
Handler’s time as a WiST Fellow and G4 intern “was exactly what I needed to help me understand what I wanted to focus on in my field and get the expert guidance I needed to navigate that question.”
“WiST has done incredible things not only for me but for so many women in this space.”
During her internship, Handler gained hands-on professional experience in consumer products and brand. The supportive leadership she received from her manager Kate Liu, VP of Consumer Products and Strategy, and other leaders at G4 was the highlight of her experience. “What I appreciated most from my supervisors was that they trusted me to do the work. They valued my time and cared about what I could get out of the internship. I had the support I needed while navigating consumer product research and different facets of the gaming and esports world that were new to me.”
Along with the mentorship she received, Handler also touts the culture of inclusivity at G4. “There’s an emphasis on appreciation and gratitude to see everybody’s contribution at the same level.”
Her positive experience and drive led Handler to a full-time position as associate manager on G4’s brand team.
She admires her current manager, Brand Director Riana Manuel, as well as Liu, for acknowledging the importance of mental health, work-life balance and understanding the work required to establish presence in the industry.
“WiST has an incredible network of bright, talented, hungry women who are going to make a major difference in our industry,” says Liu.
Opportunities Are Not Distributed Equally
The most diverse companies are consistently more profitable than less diverse peers, and yet 80% of leadership positions in the sports tech business are still predominantly white males and entire workforces in the sports tech industry are made up of less than 30% women or people of color.
Handler realizes the importance of representation in tech. “It is essential to a business. By including diverse role models, we broaden the perspective. And in doing so we can collectively learn and solve problems more effectively. I can’t emphasize enough how valuable it is to have these different perspectives. Specifically, a woman’s viewpoint — we oftentimes can showcase our skills in a way that better resonates with younger women interested in this industry. And even in a way that changes the dynamic of our own work’s culture. It’s important for women to boost each other up and create these opportunities for one another so we can continue to build inclusive environments.”