Why this matters
The Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as their new GM, making her the first woman and woman of color to hold such a position in the MLB. This moment marks a promising new age of women and minority executives throughout the sport industry.
Last week, Kim Ng made history as the first woman and first woman of color to become a general manager in Major League Baseball. With more than 30 years of experience in professional baseball, this pivotal moment is a long time coming.
“That was the timeline cleanse we all needed for 2020,” says Lori Okimura, former chairwoman for USA Volleyball and current CEO of Creative Sport Strategies. “That was a major, major moment. It gave me life to be honest.”
In the wake of Kamala Harris’ appointment as Vice President-elect and movements for racial and gender justice, Ng serves as another example of the promising trajectory of women and minorities in sport. However, this success also necessitates the discussion of the barriers posed to women and minorities especially in the form of harassment and discrimination. In 2003, when Ng was an assistant GM for the Dodgers, she was mocked and racially harassed by an executive.
Okimura recalls her own experience with colleagues making racist comments about her as she was appointed to the board for USA Volleyball. The attack was jarring, but she also found it to be a motivator to get the work done. “Every once in a while when I’m speaking to college student-athletes, I say, ‘Ok, listen. You have to face reality. Not everybody is going to be happy for you when you get this job, but you have to put that notion aside that it matters what they think,’” says Okimura. “It demeans their credibility more than it demeans yours.”
Karina Bohn, Chief Operating Officer of GSI and former VP of marketing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, echoes Okimura’s message. She emphasizes the importance of confidence and resiliency, and states that as more women and minorities are appointed to executive roles, the field inevitably will change. “Just keep chipping away,” she says. “The more that you keep chipping away at the stereotype of this is what a baseball executive is supposed to look like, that’s how you keep making that progress.”
While 2020 has been marked by a pandemic, political unrest, and widespread reckonings with racism and injustice, there is a new hope that we are entering an age of women and minorities getting the justice, attention, and opportunities they deserve. There’s a greater consideration and respect for the intersections between race, gender, class, and other identities. Marian Rhodes, a former executive for the Diamondbacks and Cardinals and current consultant, points to a new awareness in business and social settings. “A lot of individuals are more receptive and open to figuring out what they’ve been doing wrong in limiting these opportunities,” she says. “It’s a new day and I hope people take advantage of it.”
The next few years will serve as a testament to just how much organizations and leadership are committed to taking action and doing the work. It’s one thing to say that change will happen, it’s another to make change happen. Kim Ng is an example of what is possible and what is necessary, and she is an inspiration to anyone who aspires to rise above and beyond.