Muscle Sport Magazine

espn:W Women & Sports Summit- Day One

Courtesy of ESPN Images

Today (10/21), the 2019 espnW: Women + Sports Summit kicked off at The Resort at Pelican Hill Newport Beach with speakers that included GRAMMY Award winner Ella Mai, WWE superstar Becky Lynch, Track & Field Olympic Gold Medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, two-time CrossFit champion and “Fittest Woman on Earth” Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir, WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage, WNBA COO Christy Hedgpeth, Gatorade’s Head of Consumer and Athlete EngagementJill Abbott, and ESPN’s Cari Champion,  Jessica Mendoza, Sage Steele, Laura Gentile, and Julie Foudy (World Cup soccer champion & Olympic gold medalist).



  • Laura Gentile and Sage Steele welcomed guests to the opening day, reflecting on the past ten years and weighing in on the risks and rewards of being a trailblazer in sports. The duo continued by introducing the “Women in Leadership Panel” where panelists including Jill Abbott (Head of Consumer and Athlete Engagement, Gatorade), Elie Donahue (Vice President, Marketing, Rothy’s), Christy Hedgpeth (Chief Operating Officer, WNBA), Shari Van Cleave (Head of Digital Labs, Wells Fargo), and moderator Sarah Spain (espnW columnist and ESPN commentator) discussed the importance of the visibility regarding women in leadership roles; how to balance masculine and feminine roles at work; navigating a job that doesn’t support your same values of preventing sexual harassment and equal pay; and the importance of recognizing how childhood trauma can show up in leadership styles.
    • Christy Hedgpeth spoke about diversity at the workplace and how to harmonize all aspects of yourself: “We are solving really difficult problems and we need a lot of creativity to do that. Creativity as humans come from those places of diversity, so I lean more into the feminine aspect of myself when that particular representation is what’s needed in that room, and I lean more into the masculine when that part needs representation.”
  • The “espnW World Class Athlete Panel” featured speakers Katrin Davidsdottir, Liz Cambage, Becky Lynch and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, hosted by SportsCenter anchor and Summit emcee Sage Steele. The conversation included personal stories from the top international athletes, who discussed their path to success.
    • Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce discussed her humble beginnings and how she became the first Jamaican woman in history to win an Olympic gold medal in the 100m and reigns as the fastest woman in the World. Being a girl from the inner city, her coach pushed her to realize her full potential. Through his encouragement, Fraser-Pryce began to understand that she didn’t need to prove that she can overcome being from a poor circumstance; rather, she first had to convince herself that she could be one of the best, saying, “You have to first believe that it’s possible and you have to put that work in. For me, it’s years of trying to not only prove people wrong, but proving myself wrong; that I belonged and I earned this, and I’ve worked for it, I want it just as everyone else, and I deserve it.” She continued, “It’s hard being an athlete from a country where its male-dominated — everyone talks about Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell — and here you are trying to compete with them and understanding you can be who you are in your own space and your own time. Understand it’s about you and you just have to work it.” Steele quickly jumped in jokingly reminding the audience of the world’s focus on male athletes, “By the way, Usain is marvelous and historically great, but he doesn’t have 4 world championships in the 100 meters.”
    • Following her viral op-ed in The Players Tribune about her mental health struggles, Liz Cambage talked about battling depression, anxiety, being on suicide watch and her struggles with self-medicating, saying “Your darkest moments are what’s going to show you the light and show you the way you wanna go. It’s gonna teach you everything about yourself.” Cambage continued, “Everyone has a different story. We just gotta support each other.” Cambage, now feeling stronger in every aspect of her life, closed by telling the audience that she’s proud of the strides she’s made, and is finally in a place where she is able to love her full self.
    • Becky Lynch celebrated her “manniversary”, the one-year marker since she dubbed herself “The Man” as a WWE powerhouse, reclaiming the phrase and revolutionizing what it means to be the face of a male-dominated sport. She also discussed establishing the label as a career high, aiming to “make wrestling the coolest thing on TV.” Reflecting on her unconventional career path, Lynch said, “if I can do this, anyone can do anything… I want everybody to want to be better than me.” Lynch spoke about the struggles of battling stereotypes and had to tell her family that she was going to college when in fact she was pursuing her goals of being in the WWE.
  • GRAMMY Award winner Ella Mai sat down for an interview with SportsCenter anchor Cari Champion, which was recorded for the popular espnW podcast “Be Honest with Cari Champion.” The two discussed the challenge of maintaining authenticity around being a music artist, getting a phone call from Stevie Wonder, her love for Alicia Keys, her soccer (“football”) career, and her tour highlights. The conversation was followed by a live, intimate acoustic performance of Mai’s hit song “Boo’d Up,” along with “Trip,” “Makes Me Wonder,” “Sauce,” “Naked,” and more.
    • Mai shared some of her career highlights, including getting serenaded on the phone by Stevie Wonder. “He actually called me. I was in the middle of a photoshoot and thought it was too good to be true. I recognized his voice right away… I was like, ‘what is going on?’… I was so caught off guard.” Later, Wonder told her that her song “Boo’d Up’ made him want to be in love again.
    • Mai’s shared that she’d love to collaborate with Alicia Keys. “I used to want to be Alicia Keys so bad, I think you can probably tell.” Mai admitted that she cried in her seat when Keys performed her song at the GRAMMYs this year.
    • When attending high school in Queens, NY, Mai spoke of her passion for playing soccer saying “I just really wanted to be like [my brother] so I started playing and played for a total of nine years. When I moved to New York City, I had to make a decision between music and football…I’m confident that I will pick it back up at some point.”
  • Sage Steele also sat down for a one-on-one conversation with ESPN commentator, Olympic gold medalist and Sunday Night Baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza. The women discussed Mendoza’s transition from an MLB sideline reporter to a booth analyst, her recent ban from the Dodgers’ clubhouse over her role as a Mets’ adviser, the sacrifices that come with being a working mother, and going out of her comfort zone when she first got her start reporting from MLB clubhouses.
    • Mendoza discussed her transition to the booth, and how it really wasn’t much different than being a sideline reporter. She said the role was “just a geographical change, that’s what’s interesting. I was doing the same thing (on the sidelines), but because I was on the field, it was more accepted. We see women on the field, we see them interviewing players, we see them coming out of the dugout. But if you put them in the booth – like, hold up, wait a second – you haven’t been there before. This is different. The same words were coming out of my mouth.”
    • Steele broached the topic of Mendoza’s recent ban from the Dodgers’ clubhouse because of her alleged conflict of interest as a Mets advisor, saying “I hope we can go here… I’m having a little bit of trouble understanding why this is an issue.”
    • Mendoza responded, “it’s been complicated. There are over 25 of us that are broadcasters who also have roles with teams… the complicated part is that it’s been going on for two decades, and now this year, it’s this sort of unknown and there’s been times where I’ve been allowed in the clubhouse and there’s been times that I’m not, and it hasn’t been consistent. It’s hard because, just in the playoffs, I was escorted out of the clubhouse and it’s like I’m going to jail – like I’ve done something wrong – and this hasn’t happened to me before. I already feel different as it is. I feel like I’m already someone who is not the norm.”
  • The “Global Sports Mentoring Around the World Panel” featured the 2019 GSMP Delegates, Dr. Sarah Hillyer (University of Tennessee, sportandpeaceUT), and a conversation with mentor Julie Eddleman (Global Client Partner, Google) and GSMP alumna Julia Vergueiro with Julie Foudy.


To follow along with the #espnWsummit, watch live on the ESPN App and, with select sessions streamed live on Twitter.

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