Pat Summitt’s fight with Alzheimer’s ended June 28 and anyone who knows sports knew that Pat’s led an amazing basketball program. I grew up playing basketball and looked up to a number of greats. The way Pat led her players towards greatness was admirable and made aspiring athletes, like me, want to spend more time in the gym. To me, Pat Summitt was a great basketball coach. Period. However, upon her passing, a number of news outlets headlined their articles or reports using gender based language. The Wall Street Journal titled their article, Pat Summitt, Champion of Women’s Basketball, Has Died at 64. People Magazine released an article titled, How Legendary Basketball Coach Pat Summitt Changed Women’s College Sports.
If we want to speak in silos and be very specific, then yes, Pat Summitt is a great women’s basketball coach. But why do we put women’s accomplishments in a silo? Pat Summitt led her team to 1098 wins out of 1306 games. In other words, for every 100 games Pat’s team played, they won 84. When comparing that winning record to other coaches in both the men’s and women’s divisions, Pat outperformed them. Not only that, but every student that Pat coached, graduated. This shows that Pat was a great basketball coach, not just a great female coach in women’s basketball.
Women often feel as though they have to work twice as hard to get the same level of recognition and validity as their male colleagues. Pat Summitt has accomplished more in her career than any other male or female, yet her accomplishments are belittled to gendered boxes. Have you ever wondered why we have a WNBA, Women's National Basketball Association, and not a MNBA, Men's National Basketball Association? Why are associations, leagues, and conferences automatically assumed to be male oriented? We never hear of a men's leadership conference or a men's association, but a search of "women's conference" yields over 34 million hits. Women are always placed in situations where they seem to be "catching up" to the standard set by men in the workplace.
What can we do to ensure that women's accomplishments are not limited to the pool of women, but instead are among the ranks of all people's accomplishments?
1. We must be aware that we are minimizing women's accomplishments. We must recognize when we, or those around us, categorize women's accomplishments into limiting boxes and call it out. Most people are unaware of what they say, no matter how hurtful it can be towards others. Respectfully bringing these issues to the surface can help others learn how to be more inclusive to women in the workplace.
2. Form a group of allies who will celebrate your successes. Sometimes referred to as "circles" these are supporters who are excited to tell others about you and your accomplishments and recommend you for growth opportunities. Your supporters can be your golden ticket to your dream career or client. You know the saying "you are an average of the 5 people you surround yourself with most". Make those 5 people count.
3. Be a supporter! Surround yourself with people you enjoy promoting. Being a supporter is two-fold: you are recognized for being an encourager and your person is recognized for their accomplishments. "A rising tide lifts all boats". Share in the success of those in your circle. Success is contagious.
4. Own your success. You are talented, you worked hard, and the world needs to know how you did it. By downplaying your success, you deny the world of the best you. The world needs the best you!
5. Spread the word. Create a special hashtag or phrase that you and your circle use when supporting each other. This will show others that you #LeanInTogether. Nothing is more powerful than a group of people who gather together to uplift one another.
Together, we have the power to change the workplace. Recognizing women's achievements is one step in the right direction.