Study Shows WNBA Leads In Diverse Hiring For 16th Consecutive Year


Feb. 24 2021, Published 7:21 a.m. ET

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A study found the WNBA leads all professional sports leagues when it came to racial and gender diversity in hiring. 

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) issued a report card full of A-plus scores to the league for overall grades, racial hiring and gender hiring in the 2020 season. This marked the 16th consecutive year the WNBA received a grade of at least an A in all three categories. The league’s numerical scores also increased since the previous year.

“They have regularly moved the bar upwards instead of downwards,” TIDES director and lead report author, Richard Lapchick, told The Associated Press.

WNBA In Comparison To Others

TIDES reviewed the WNBA alongside the NBA, NFL, MLB and MLS. In 2020, the NBA received an overall score of A-minus, while the MLB and MLS received B grades and the NFL received a B-minus. 

How Does TIDES Work?

TIDES WNBA Report Card
Source: Image: TIDES

The organization is a part of the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program. It worked with representatives from the WNBA and NBA League Office to collect data on the WNBA’s headquarters as well as the team level. The findings were then compared to data from previous years. 

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Making History In Numbers

For the first time in the past five years, the number of women holding WNBA league office positions increased, going from 48.9 percent in 2019 to 60.9 percent in 2020. 

The WNBA received an A+ for gender in five categories including team vice presidents and above, CEO/Presidents, assistant coaches, team managers to senior directors and the WNBA League Office. Women held 58.3 percent of team president/CEO roles as well as other key decision-making roles. 2020 was the first year they made up the majority of that category. 

The representation of people of color as assistant coaches rose from  42.3 percent in 2019 to 54.2 percent in 2020. Additionally, there were 13 people of color and 15 women in WNBA ownership positions for the second consecutive year.

“The WNBA continues to set an example for equitable racial and gender hiring practices across all professional leagues,” said Lapchick.

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WNBA Leads In Diverse Hiring

The professional team staff and head coaches categories received grades of A and A-, respectively. Team general managers received a grade of D+ for including only three women. 

The league earned an overall 97.4 score, up from 94.8 in 2019. That increase relied primarily on a four-point jump in gender hiring (98.0), while the racial score climbed by about one point from 95.6 in 2019 to 96.7 in 2020.

“At the WNBA, we’re encouraged to have had many all-time highs in this year’s Race and Gender Report Card,” League Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “We remain committed to continuing to be one of the most inclusive and progressive leagues, and will remain vigilant in our focus on developing league and team cultures that promote diverse hiring at all levels.”

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By: Bareerah Zafar

Bareerah Zafar is a Seattle-based journalist who turned her high school reputation of "angry brown girl" into a career in writing. Her work focuses on intersectional stories covering lifestyle, travel, identity and social justice. When she's not writing, you can find her in a cozy corner snuggling with her cats and a book.

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