All around the sports landscape, champagne corks are being popped and backs are being patted with the news that a woman has been welcomed into the ranks of management.
Kim Ng’s hiring as general manager of the Miami Marlins this past week has set off applause and acclamations, not only in baseball, but all over the world of professional sports.
Ng is the first woman to head a major league baseball front office in the game’s more than 100 year history. For that matter, she is the first to lead a team in any major men’s professional league.
For some, that’s an important distinction. Even as women have been running franchises in female leagues for decades, Ng’s ascension is seen by many as women finally getting to play the big room.
Assuming that’s true, one would be left to ponder two relevant questions: One, why did this take so long? Two, why is this such a big deal?
Let’s take these in order. As we’ve documented in this space for more than 18 years now, men have traditionally used sports as a place to run away and hide from women.
Athletics have historically been a safe space for people with Y-chromosomes to avoid dealing with those with X-chromosomes. The ramifications of that are that men create barriers that keep women from participation.
To her credit, Kim Ng climbed over those walls for 30 years and achieved success. Starting as an intern with the Chicago White Sox in 1990, Ng made her way up the baseball hierarchy.
She spent seven years with the White Sox before joining the Yankees, where she was part of the organization that won three World Series in a four-year span.
Ng moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers, then joined the MLB front office, where she served as senior vice president for baseball operations. In taking over the Marlins’ organization, she’s reacquainted with Derek Jeter, who was a young shortstop with the Yankees during her tenure there..
Jeter, the Marlins’ CEO, remembered Ng’s acumen and brought her onboard to run things in Miami.
In a statement issued by the Marlins, Ng said quote When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals unquote.
And that gets us to the second question, namely, why is this such a big deal? You need only look at the Marlins’ Twitter feed and the timeline just after the announcement to get your answer.
Old fashioned sexism has been rampant in sports, as it is all over American society.
Once upon a time, the only way you’d see a woman as a part of an athletic organization was as a cheerleader or as the secretary to an executive.
The numbers of women in decision-making roles are climbing. In the just completed season, 21 women had either on-field coaching or player development jobs in baseball, up from just three only three years ago.
The corks and back-patting might be a little premature, but Kim Ng’s ascension is clearly worth noting and celebrating.
And that’s how I see it for this week.