Women pathfinders offer inspiration on special night

August 27th, 2022

MIAMI -- Women donning shirts with the phrase “Actually, I can” and sporting various shades of lipstick, from the lighter shades of pink to bright red, shuffled into the Biscayne Bay Brew Hall at loanDepot park on Friday. Almost two hours ahead of first pitch for the series opener between the Marlins and Dodgers, these women were here for one specific reason: to hear from Miami general manager Kim Ng and Panzura CEO Jill Stelfox.

There were men in attendance, too, but on Women’s Empowerment Night, the focus was on the ladies, ranging from high schoolers to established businesswomen, and even a few toddlers. After the women had time to mingle and exchange business cards, they listened to a panel discussion led by Bally Sports’ Kelly Saco, in which everything was discussed, from how Ng and Stelfox -- who was named one of Business Journals’ 2022 Women of Influence and helped develop NextGenStats for the NFL -- have established themselves as leaders in male-dominated industries to what the pair looks for when hiring fellow women.

Ng made history in November 2020, when she was hired as the first known woman general manager in a North American professional sports league, and the first woman GM in Major League Baseball. Her hiring paved the way for more women to be hired at various levels of baseball, as she acknowledged Friday night.

“This is just such a novelty,” Ng said. “I think that it opened many, many eyes. And I think others in the industry have taken note and you see a lot more women in the front offices now.”

Ng also said that she got lucky, given that her “partner in crime” is also a woman: Marlins COO Caroline O’Connor.

“It’s really comforting knowing that somebody else like you, who has [things] in common, a common bond with you, is there right beside you,” Ng said.

For the women in attendance -- including a trio of local high schoolers named Mica, Ale and Carolina who want to go into male-dominated fields once they’re adults -- it meant a lot to hear from women like Ng and Stelfox who have already overcome so many obstacles.

“Just seeing all these women being in the front, getting all the attention and everything,” Carolina said, “I just think it's so inspiring to see that it's a reality. It could happen to any of us if we work hard.”

When asked by some of the women in attendance how they manage being women in male-dominated industries, the pair had one resounding answer. They don’t let it stop them, and actually use their position as women to take advantage of sometimes being underestimated.

“If you can bring your game -- you’re smart, you’re ready and you’re prepared -- they remember you more,” Stelfox said, “because it is unique. That was super helpful when I was working [around] that problem in the early days. I would walk onto a field before the game and they might not know my name, but they know, ‘Oh, that’s the woman in football stats.’

“[Being one of a few women] helps make you memorable.”