The Women’s Tennis Association will receive the 2019 Distinguished Company award at the Top Women in Media Awards gala in NYC. Micky Lawler, WTA President, explains how the organization serves women so well.
What have been the most effective initiatives/policies in your company to help women thrive in the workplace?
The success of the WTA as an organization uniquely depends on its ability to increase the value of women in business. While the sports industry remains dominated by men, the WTA has been hugely successful in cultivating the leadership opportunities for WTA alumni over four decades with its WTA Legends & Friends program, which fosters an active role in tennis post-retirement.
The training of this program begins as early as the teen years as players enter professional status and has led to hundreds of women in influential roles across the WTA, including tournament directors, who oversee the live tennis fan experience in magnificent cities around the world; news broadcasters who are on the frontlines of the sports’ media narrative; female coaches, who actively shape the next generation of training and culture for players; as well as board and council members who serve as key stakeholders in the operations and values of the league.
The WTA goes a step further in nurturing young females at the junior level by dedicating resources to tennis programming for young girls in Under 14 and Under 16 age groups. What started as the WTA Future Stars, development grassroots initiative, introducing sport to less privileged communities, with 24 players from 12 countries in 2014, has now evolved throughout 24 countries globally – 21 in Asia-Pacific countries with over 198 participants; and most recently adopted in the US, UK and Canada in 2019, showcasing high-performance players, providing development and mentorship opportunities from the stars of the WTA.
Off of the tennis court, gender inclusiveness and female mentorship is just as much part of our DNA as it is on the court. With 109 employees across four corporate offices in four different countries, the WTA is proud to not simply aim for equality and balanced representation but live, breathe and reflect it in our day-to-day with more than half of its corporate departments managed by women.
What are two things that make your company an especially desirable place to work?
Without question, the beauty of our organization is found in its diverse talents and rich history.
Women’s professional tennis is fortunate to be rooted in one of sport’s most inspiring stories and we’re fortunate to be in a generation where the founder and trailblazers are so closely connected. They keep us inspired, challenged and reminded that our work never stops. Billie Jean King, our founder and the “Original Nine” are a storybook example of women who challenged the culture and dialogue of their time and I know I don’t speak for just myself, we strive to honor their pioneering spirit with the work we continue to do today.
Whether staff have played or followed professional tennis in their former WTA lives—which many of them have—it’s impossible not to marvel at the people, cultures and destinations that culminate in our sport. With 1,800 players representing 85 nations and 109 staff serving 55 events across 29 countries, we’re so blessed to reach so many corners of the globe, experience the beauty of their cultures and unite our talents around these athletes, who are super stars on and off the court.
How do you mentor new employees?
We immerse them! If you’re not a tennis fan when you come aboard, you will quickly become one Whether it’s the travel, the people, or the sport, eventually, they all collide into a treasured conglomerate that is the WTA. No matter your role, you become a part of this heartbeat and tennis family that never stops. Every employee is given the opportunity to see and be a part of the WTA tour, visiting a tournament and going on-site to where the magic of fans meets competition takes place. Whether staff are based in an office or traveling with the Tour, our business operates without cultural, time zone, or geographical bounds and every team member gets to experience this from day one. We never stop encouraging staff to cross-train, educate, or gain fresh experiences—all which inspire new perspective on the evolution of their careers and our business.