Most Powerful Women in the Sports Business World Today
Sports and business have both been historically dominated by men. Getting your foot in the door of a "boy's club" isn't fun. Women and minorities often have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously by their peers. It takes extraordinary grit to continue climbing when your own path has more rocks in the way than everyone else's.
Caroline O'Connor (pictured, left) recently made waves when joined Kim Ng in the front office of the Miami Marlins, and the two women are among several powerful women who have fought to make a name for themselves in the sports industry. Their work and the work of other women have helped pave the way for other women and girls who dream of careers in sports.
These are the most powerful women in the sports business world today.
On Nov. 14, 2022, Caroline O'Connor was promoted by the Major League Baseball franchise to serve as the president of business operations of the Miami Marlins. She's only the second woman to serve as president of a Major League Baseball team, alongside Catie Griggs who currently leads the Seattle Mariners.
O'Connor was drawn to sports from a young age, playing several sports including softball. She studied finance and computer science at Rutgers and NYU, and went on to work for high-profile companies like IBM and Morgan Stanley. She happened to know baseball player Derek Jeter, who asked her to interview for a job with the Marlins in 2017.
O'Connor was a Yankees fan, but she agreed. She started out as the team's senior vice president and chief of staff before becoming COO in 2019, and now the president. She loves her job in part because it gives her an opportunity to show young girls that there's a place for them in the world of sports. Roles like hers were traditionally filled by men, so to have an example like her to look up to is groundbreaking.
In 2020, Kim Ng made history by becoming the first woman to hold the position of general manager for a major professional men's sports team. When she was hired, she was no stranger to the sports business. She had already spend decades serving as a baseball executive, including for the New York Yankees. She never expected to have the opportunity to serve as GM, but she's more than prepared to do the job.
Her resume is lengthy and impressive. She served as MLB's vice president of baseball operations since 2011 and was assistant GM and VP of the Los Angeles Dodgers starting in 2002. Other industry leaders actually consider her overqualified to be a first-time GM. When she started working for the Yankees in 1998 as the assistant GM, she was the youngest to hold the position at just 29 years old. She interviewed for five different MLB GM positions since 2005, and her persistence finally paid off.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Julie Uhrman is the co-founder and president of Angel City, one of the only majority female-founded and -run pro sports teams in the world. It's a National Women's Soccer League expansion team that just began play in 2022, with owners including Natalie Portman, Serena Williams, Eva Longoria and several other high-profile celebrities. It's the first pro women's soccer team in the Los Angeles area in over a decade since the Los Angeles Sol went under in 2010.
Uhrman was inspired to become an entrepreneur by her stepfather and was previously an executive at Lionsgate Entertainment, Vivendi Entertainment and Playboy Enterprises. In her free time, she still plays basketball and soccer for fun, in addition to spending time with her two kids.
A former professional soccer player from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Angela Hucles is no newcomer to sports. She serves as the vice president of player development and operations at Angel City FC, and it's not the first leading role she's taken. After retiring from competitive soccer, she traveled to Morocco as a SportsUnited Sports Envoy for the U.S. Department of State, helping to teach soccer clinics for youths in underserved regions.
She also served as the Women's Sports Foundation President from 2015 to 2017 and routinely speaks on issues facing young women and members of the LGBTQ+ community in sports, promoting safe spaces and opportunities to participate for all.
Once a professional bodybuilder, Dany Garcia has so much more to be proud of than sheer physical strength. She's also a chairwoman, entertainment magnate, founder, investor, producer and philanthropist. She acquired the XFL, a professional American football minor league with eight teams. It's one of just three professional leagues operating in the U.S., alongside the U.S. Football League and the NFL. Acquiring the XFL turned Garcia into the first woman to own an equal or majority stake in a major U.S. professional sports league.
In addition to owning the XFL, Garcia has co-founded Seven Bucks Productions, a production company for TV, film and digital networks, boasting a "Fast & Furious" spinoff called "Hobbs & Shaw." In 2019, the movie was the only title to lead the global box office for four weeks running.
The road for women in sports is rarely an easy one, and Cynt Marshall's story shows just how much grit it takes to succeed. Today, she's the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, a position she's held since 2018 after almost 40 years working in leadership roles at AT&T.
Before that, she had it rough. She was raised with an abusive father who broke her nose when she was a teen. Her road to motherhood wasn't easy, either. She suffered four, second-trimester miscarriages and later lost a 6-month-old before choosing to adopt four children. She also survived Stage 3 colon cancer after 12 rounds of chemo.
Her father claimed she would never amount to much, and she set out to prove him wrong. She told her sisters they were all going to college and that she would become the president of something one day. She became the president of AT&T North Carolina and is now the first Black woman CEO in the history of the NBA.
Jeanie Buss made a name for herself as the president and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. Admittedly, she had her foot in the door from birth. She's the daughter of Jerry Buss, the former Lakers owner, who passed on his controlling ownership to his six children in 2013. She took over as the team's president and serves as the Lakers' representative on the NBA Board of Governors. She also became the first female owner to lead a team to an NBA championship title.
But her success didn't come without hard work. She majored in business at the University of Southern California, graduated with honors and served as the GM of the Strings, a tennis team owned by her father, when she was only 19. She later bought the Los Angeles Blades, a roller hockey team, and was named Executive of the Year by the league. She was named one of the Top 20 Most Influential Women in Sports by Sporting News in 2005 and has been considered a major figure in the sports world by several other world-renowned publications.
She isn't afraid of making bold business decisions, either. She fired Mitch Kupchak as GM of the Lakers in 2017 and pushed for her brother's resignation as VP of operations. Instead, she hired Magic Johnson as president and hired Rob Pelinka to be the new GM. She's also the owner of WOW, Women Of Wrestling.
Nicole Lynn is as business-minded as it gets. She has both a bachelor's degree in business management and a doctor of law degree, in addition to working as a financial analyst on Wall Street. In 2015, she hit another major milestone, becoming the first-ever female agent to represent a top NFL agency, PlayersRep.
In 2021, she became the president of football operations at Klutch Sports Group. She signed her first agent when she was only 26 and remains one of the youngest female sports agents in the industry. She has a long list of big-name clients, including several NFL players, a softball star and a ballerina from the American Ballet Theater. She attributes some of her success to her challenging upbringing, which instilled in her the drive to change her circumstances and build a better life for herself as well as to pave the way for others.
Sheila Crump Johnson
Sheila Crump Johnson has done it all. She's an accomplished musician with a music degree who once founded a youth orchestra that was invited to perform in Jordan and was granted an educational award by the king. She also co-founded Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 1980 with her then-husband.
Her sports career began when she got involved with the WNBA. She's the governor of the Washington Mystics, serving as president and the first Black woman to be an owner or partner in three different professional sports franchises, working with the WNBA, NBA and NHL.
Michele Roberts was the first woman to head a major professional sports union in North America, once serving as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. She grew up in a housing project in The Bronx, later attending the University of California, Berkeley's School of Law and becoming a Public Defender in Washington, D.C.
She served for eight years and earned a reputation as an excellent trial lawyer before moving on to the sports industry. ESPNW named her one of their Impact 25 members in 2014, and she remains an adjunct faculty member at Harvard Law School.
Although she retired from her position as NBPA executive director in 2022, she made her mark. Sports Illustrated named her one of the 21 Most Powerful Women in the Business of Sports in 2021, and Crain's New York listed her as one of the most Notable Women in Law.