International Women’s Day: The sports talent manager on working with partner Michael Strahan and how to close the gender pay gap in sports
As part of a series to mark International Women’s Day, Moneyish asked some prominent people to share their thoughts and experiences regarding issues important to females. Read more here.
If you treat people the way you want to be treated, things will work out.
I started as an assistant for the National Football League in 1991 when the workplace culture was very different for women. In hindsight, I didn’t think I had any fears going in because unfortunately, today’s very apparent discrimination was just commonplace. I didn’t have to deal with sexual harassment, but there was nepotism and gender discrimination. One common and simply accepted example was that my bosses would bring in a guy with connections and I’d have to explain the job to them. They would do the same job, but with a better title and much higher salary.
I can’t blame them for being part of the lucky sperm club. Who’s to say I wouldn’t do the same? But I wasn’t, so instead my game plan was an extra battery in my back and working 10 times harder so that my bosses had to promote me. Easier said than done, but looking back, I wish I was more vocal about it. I remember running an event for a guy that my boss brought in, and my boss kept talking to the man as if he were running it. He gave me credit, but then my boss said, “How am I going to send a secretary to meet with the President of our biggest sponsor?”
I’m proud to say that I said, “Good luck figuring out how to make the deal work, then,” and then walked out. I expected to get fired, but it was the best thing to stand up for myself. My boss later apologized, and it was a big turning point in my career. You have to earn respect, but also command it. You’re never going to get invited to a seat at the big table, so you’ll have to earn it by working hard. That’s why I work as hard now as when I was 21 years old.
Once you get a seat at that table, you need to continue to work hard and well with the people around you. Most importantly, I think you need treat people the way they want to be treated. No job should be too big or small. A prime example of this is when my business partner, ex-New York Giants star Michael Strahan, goes to get a coffee before a meeting at the office, he’ll do it for himself and get one for everyone else. There’s no maid to clean up. We all pitch in, and no task is too big or too small. It truly is the golden rule.
Back then, gender discrimination pervaded the entire corporate culture. But I have to give credit to the athletes, because working with them was the one place I never experienced it. Whether you were a guy or a girl, the players always judged you based on work ethic and if you were good at the job. Michael has a high profile, and in a meeting with a lot of men when I’m the only woman in the room, they talk to him because they think he’s the only decision maker. But he stands up and fights for me to have equal billing and footing. That’s why we’ve thrived for years at our company, SMAC Entertainment, managing talent and producing content for television and awards shows.
I would love to be optimistic and say the gender pay gap in sports is going to close soon, but I think realistically, you’ll only see it go away when fans start showing women’s sports more support. But we’re starting to see change. The NBA does a great job supporting the WNBA and when decision makers are able to leverage support, you’ll see change.
As much as it’s about women supporting women, men need to step up too. Everyone needs to be on board for true change to take place. You need a great supporting team by your side. I employ a lot of young men and women and it’s important to me that we foster a positive environment. You have to look out for those that come after, and I try to make a conscious effort every day to do so.
Constance Schwartz Morini is co-founder and partner at SMAC Entertainment, whose clients include Wiz Khalifa, Erin Andrews and Deion Sanders.
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