Women in MLB talk progress, challenges

March 18th, 2021

Without question, women are making their mark in Major League Baseball. Kim Ng, the highest-profile example, is in her first year as the general manager of the Marlins. She is putting together a competitive team for the 2021 season, and there’s no doubt the NL East is not taking the Marlins lightly.

Michele Meyer-Shipp is the chief people and culture officer of the league. She oversees human resources and is the highest-ranking woman in baseball.

Despite those breakthroughs, more women are needed to get involved in the game of baseball. It’s Women’s History Month and it’s fitting that MLB recently had a virtual get-together called “Women in the C-suite.”

The conversation, moderated by MLB Network’s Lauren Shehadi and streamed live on MLB.com, was part of MLB’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program.

The panel featured Meyer-Shipp; Nona Lee, the executive vice president and chief legal officer of the D-backs; Chaitali Gala, the chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation; Laura Day, executive vice president of the Twins; and Jill Robinson, the chief financial officer of the Braves. They not only talked about their experiences in baseball, but also how to recruit more women into the game.

While the panelists expressed satisfaction with what they do for a living, they also talked about how they entered the game, how they stayed there and their ups and downs along the way.

The panel also tackled tough subjects. For example, the conversation started by asking why it has taken so long for women to make a mark in the game of baseball.

“I think it stems from this continuation of traditional old-school thinking, right?” Day said. “People stereotyping around the world, gender bias, cultural and equality issues that we are facing quite frankly today.”

Meyer-Shipp said she is trying her best to bring diversity to MLB and has ideas on how to continue making progress.

“We have to make sure we are recruiting and sourcing women into sports actively and progressively,” Meyer-Shipp said. “We need to make sure that once we get women into sports that we are doing everything we can to develop them, to support them, to mentor them and to help them elevate.

“You can’t do one and not the other. A lot of organizations will say we just want to focus on the recruit part, but then when you get to space, culture and environment it’s not one you can thrive and grow. We need to be doing both at the same time.”

Shehadi asked the panel the following question: What is the No. 1 piece of advice they would give women when it comes to staying in the game of baseball?

Gala pointed out that there is no set path. She has a nonprofit background but learned the game of baseball after joining the Dodgers, and she’s now a COO. In essence, she was a sponge after joining the team.

“Don’t underestimate your ability,” Gala said. “To a young woman or to anyone that is listening, you can do it. Be honest with yourself on what you need to learn. But you are fully capable, not because you are a woman or you have XYZ, but because you are you and you bring your unique self to the table.

“So don’t put yourself in a box and think, ‘Oh, because I didn’t do X, I can’t do Y.’ We are in a time now where things are a little bit more fluid and your unique experience will really help shape the role that you are going into.”

The panel agreed that it is important that men get involved in the conversations when it comes to helping women in sports.

“We need male champions and comrades,” Day said. “I’m fortunate I work with a number of guys that understand and value that it’s not about men vs. women. It’s trying to create progress, create opportunities and a better working environment for all of us. Not just women, but everyone that comes through the door of all Twins baseball. I think it’s imperative we have our male mentors.”

Meyer-Shipp is looking forward to seeing the progress made for increased diversity in the game of baseball.

“This is a team sport. Driving diversity, equity and inclusion for all unrepresentative groups,” she said. “I don’t own it. None of us own it alone. We are in this together. I’m really excited what we are going to do together, moving forward for the better of the sport.”

The “Women in the C-suite” panel discussion was part of MLB’s month-long observation of Women’s History Month. Other events and activities that have already taken place or are scheduled this month are as follows:

• Women-owned business ads are currently running on MLB.com. Businesses were invited to submit artwork for ads to be featured on the site
• MLB Women and SOMOS event: A panel featuring Latina professionals discussed their career paths as agents, with participants offering insight as to how they market Latin players. The panel was moderated by Jennifer Mercedes, and panelists included Catalina Villegas (LST Marketing/Magnus Media); Arrielle Moyal (REP 1); Yvonne Carrasco Chalmé (Wasserman); Nadia Tseng (CAA); Emily Cabrera (BHSC) and Aileen Villareal (ISE Worldwide)
• Step Up to the Plate: Women in Tech: An information session and workshop featuring women in tech at MLB
• Healthy Masculinity: A conversation with men around allyship and healthy masculinity
• MLB Women: Women’s History Museum virtual field trip
• Roundtable with Minda Harts: A conversation on professional development for women of color. This is a follow-up to Black Women in the Workplace conversation hosted during Black History Month
• Women in tech conversation between MLB women and MLB’s new partner, Extreme Network