Chat Recap – Can women have it all? A sports perspective.

After several months of being “off the grid”, I finally got the #SAWSports community back in conversation with a chat on “Can women have it all? A sports perspective.” As we are in a time where “having it all” is a big topic, especially amongst women. So many female executives, including Indra Nooyi ad Sheryl Sandberg, are talking about this topic in various forums. While there may not be a black and white answer, nor should there be, what you will read about below are ways we as a community can continue to grow no matter where we are in life.

We started off with a simple question, should it be about having it all? Here’s what people had to say:

As we continue down this path of life we encounter various opportunities and obstacles along the way. So I asked the community, how do we have a successful career in this industry and a healthy family life? Or should we only be focusing on one at a time?

To those out there who feel as though they have to pick between their career and their personal life, here is some great advice:

Then there is the ultimate thought many females come across at one point or another, how would one raise a family and continue to make an impact in the sports industry? There are many people we can look up to such as executives, family and friends for this but, in the end there’s something about seeing someone very similar to you in your field which really hits home. Many times it’s all about seeing someone that you can relate to, seeing someone go through what you’re going through or have gone through.

To close up the hour, I asked the community how do we, as South Asians, continue to grow in this industry as we go through various stages in our lives?

Even though there are no right or wrong answers, we need to continue to engage each other and have these conversations. The more conversations we have the more the community will build upon itself and the platform will grow. For those just “listening” in on these conversations, join in next time, we want to hear your voice, we you to be part of the community! Here’s to paving the way!


Chat Recap – Featured Guest: Senior Manager at ESPN CreativeWorks

After a couple months of topics for our South Asian women in sports community I decided to change it up and bring a different format to the chat.  An individual who is in the industry and well versed for a number of years was brought in to bring a different dynamic.  In addition, it gave folks to connect with yet another South Asian female in the industry.  She’s been working in the sports industry for almost 10 years!

April’s chat was with Pooja Kobawala Van Dyke who is a Senior Manager at ESPN CreativeWorks.  The conversation started off with learning more about who and what ESPN CreativeWorks is and does.

The path Pooja took to get to where she is today wouldn’t seem so “traditional” in a  South Asian household.  She has been in the sports industry since college, started off by working for the school paper.

And when asked what sent her down this path, she highlighted something I thought was very important, having family support.  It’s very tough for South Asians to explain why they want to pursue a career in this field.  Though, the more successful “Poojas” we have in the world the more success we’ll have as a community.

Not only did her success come from having support at home but also having a platform to prepare her for the real world and learn about the barriers minorities deal with.  That platform was the South Asian Journalists Association.

On those similar lines, when asked to tell us about other women focused platforms or conferences that we as women can tune into at ESPN for inspiration, Pooja responded with this:

There is also the very powerful espnW Summit hosted every year for the last four years where females in the sports industry come together to share stories, ideas, and empower one another to become successful.  This chat is doing the same on a smaller scale, it’s about looking after one another, sharing experiences and ideas on a platform everyone can go to.

And finally, Pooja talked about how she attended SXSW this year and how creative the conference has become.

As these chats continue the idea is to get many folks engaged, sharing stories and ideas with one another, and most importantly for everyone to get to know what each other is doing in the industry.

It was delightful chatting with Pooja about her thoughts and experiences in the sports industry!  The next chat is scheduled for Wednesday, May 14 from 9 to 10 PM EST.  Join in using #SAWSports!

Finally, I leave you with a tweet from Pooja that many of us can smile and chuckle about:

Thank you Pooja!

Chat Recap – Mentoring / Paying it Forward

On Wednesday March 12 the chat was focused on “Mentoring / Paying it Forward”.  It was amazing to see the diverse group of individuals who joined us with backgrounds ranging from sports PR and media personnel to athletes to a sports business MBA student and many others.  One of the biggest takeaways from the conversation seemed to be that a mentorship is really a two way relationship; a mentor willing and able to provide constructive criticism and a mentee having open-mindedness.
Even though there may not be many of us in the sports field we can’t stop searching for mentors, we need to look outside the industry as well.  Many times someone’s experiences can help us get to the next level, no matter what field he or she is in.  Having mentors in other industries also helps us become versatile and we begin to think outside the box.
Gaining knowledge from multiple industries and piecing them together can also aide in success.  It’s not about finding one mentor to help us get to the next level, it’s about surrounding ourselves with great mentors in multiple industries.  The more knowledge we have the better decisions we can make.
In this industry, getting more South Asian women to be mentors is tough especially when there are not many of us; however, for those that are in the industry it’s important we see each other as allies.  We need to unite and do our best to help each other succeed; the more success we have the more families will see that it is okay to let their young girl follow in our footsteps.
Lastly, even though there may be a small amount of us in the industry we need to continue to mobilize each other to break those barriers; continue to think outside the box because there are opportunities for everyone.

Our next South Asian women in sports chat (#SAWSports) will be on April 9 at 9 PM EST.  Hope you join the discussion and begin to pay it forward!

Mentoring / Paying it Forward

We all know having mentors is a huge part of being successful in any industry.  Mentors have a wealth of knowledge and experience which can ultimately lead to doors opening.  They can help you make decisions with your career and give you advice on what to do next.  Some may see mentoring as “keeping a look out” or “challenging the mentee to be successful”.

The qualities a mentor has does not surprise many; however, finding a mentor seems to be tough specifically when trying to find South Asian women in the sports field.  I have a couple mentors I look to for work / career advice, professional development, and someone to bounce ideas and thoughts off of.  However, I noticed none of those mentors are South Asian women in the sports industry.  There are many factors that explain why there might be a lack of South Asian women in this industry; though, rather than figuring out why there is a low number focusing on trying to find the right mentor is what we should be doing.

As many of us continue to try to break in perhaps finding South Asian women and men in other industries to serve as a mentor will be the key to a successful career, even in sports.  Many of the struggles we face today can be found in other industries and applying those experiences to the sports arena can aide in a successful career.  Also searching for women and men in those careers that you like to emulate will help in triumph.  Those that have gone through it have seen what it takes and having them talk about it is one of the easiest ways to gain knowledge about the career you want to pursue.  We need to start somewhere and as the number of South Asian women in sports continue to grow finding those mentors might get easier.

For now, however, how do we find the right mentors to help us get there?  Join the conversation on Twitter about mentoring / paying it forward on March 12 from 9 to 10 PM EST using #SAWSports!!

The First Chat

On Wednesday, February 12 we held the first South Asian women in sports Twitter chat!  The topic was ‘Breaking into the Industry’ and we had a number of folks join us ranging from an Indian figure skater to an online publication dedicated to giving a voice to young South Asian women.  The conversation started off with ways women have broken into the sporting industry and reasons why women have not gone down this path even though they have a passion for it.

Getting into the sporting industry has always seemed “way too far fetched” for South Asian women.  Many of our parents lack the knowledge of knowing what type of impact one can have in the industry.  Ami Parekh (Indian Figure Skater) talks about how her parents didn’t know much about sports and what it had to offer.  A lack of role models, opportunities, and knowing this can be a long term career women can pursue are also reasons why many have not continued down this path.

As many of our parents came from a country where there is a lack of infrastructure for women to choose this industry.  In the United States, the infrastructure is there and yet many South Asian women have yet to take advantage of this.  There was talk about how this needs to change by knowing other successful individuals in the industry, knowing that it’s okay to do something that isn’t considered mainstream.

Building a community of like-minded women can aid in a lot of what lacks today.  It can keep the momentum going and continue to show others that this is an industry we can belong in.  And most of all, the next generation will have a foundation to build off of.  Continue this conversation with us every second Wednesday of the month on Twitter from 9 to 10 PM EST using #SAWSports!  Next chat: Wednesday, March 12.

Building a Community and Having a Voice

South Asian women face many obstacles here in the U.S.  The cultural patriarchy, the glass ceiling, pay gap, maternity leave, and expectations to cook, clean and care for the family.  Trying to follow one’s passion is hard enough, but trying to break into a male dominated industry like sports may seem nearly impossible.  But it’s not; over the last decade the South Asian women in the sports community have been making splashes of impact in various aspects of the industry.  Mohini Bhardwaj, the first South Asian American gymnast who earned a team silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.  There are also tennis stars like Sania Mirza, Shikha Uberoi and Neha Uberoi.  In media, Aditi Kinkhabwala who was a journalist for the Wall Street Journal is now a reporter for the NFL Network and Kavitha A. Davidson a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about Sports.  Then there’s Megha Parekh, Vice President and General Counsel of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Being a woman in a testosterone filled industry is tough enough and being a South Asian woman is even tougher.  There are a countless number of incidents where South Asian women are criticized for being in the industry.  For instance, not too long ago Kinkhabwala was covering the Pittsburg Steelers when they played the Miami Dolphins on December 8, 2013 and received a racist remark on Twitter.

Then just recently Priyanka Chopra talked about her thoughts on receiving racist remarks for being the opening act for NFL Thursday Night Football.  Although this is nothing new in the industry, these are the obstacles that all women have to overcome no matter what race or nationality they are.  But, what’s being done to make sure South Asian women overcome these hardships?

There’s also overcoming those hardships that start at home.  Many of you may remember the movie, Bend It Like Beckham a story in which a young South Asian female had aspirations of being a soccer player but her parents wanted her to go to school and get married instead of going to college on a soccer scholarship.  Our reality isn’t like a movie but the expectations to succeed in school, be a good wife, and good mother overshadow the path to follow one’s dream.  How can these girls and young women in school get through these obstacles?  Parents and families need to understand the value and impact young women can have in this industry.

What about the next generation?  More and more South Asian women have an interest of being in the sporting industry.  There are young girls out there who look up to individuals like Mirza and Kinkhabwala.  They want to be an athlete or in journalism or be an agent.  The “pay it forward” model needs to happen, these girls and young women looking to get into the industry and women who are already in the industry need a support network, a community to be a part of.  Being able to relate to someone can always help in achieving success and building relationships can drive that process.  To start building a community a South Asian women in sports Twitter chat will be on the second Wednesday of each month beginning February 12 from 8 to 9 PM EST.  Join the conversation and follow along with the #SAWSports hashtag.