BY: JEN WAGNER, M.B.A. '08
The twelfth annual Women in Sports Business Symposium, held April 17 at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon, proved yet again to be a giant leap forward in the education and awareness of young women professionals in sports business. The event, organized and hosted by Warsaw Sports Marketing Center students at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business, gathered together more than 200 attendees, including CEOs, business professionals, faculty, and current students. Dr. Donna Lopiano, former CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation, was a most deserving recipient of this year's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Sports Business Woman of the Year award.
This was my second time participating in the event, and it was great to see the program evolve in its second year in Portland to include the traditional panel format that had been a fixture of the symposium when it was held in Eugene. The afternoon panels started with a unique one-on-one conversation between Columbia Sportswear Company's Chairwoman Gert Boyle and Lopiano. The conversation was serious in content but light-hearted in delivery. Topics ranged from how CEOs tackle hiring issues to how these two women have run extremely successful organizations.
Following was another panel, moderated by Lopiano, billed as "Perspectives of Senior Leadership." Panelists included Beth Schnitzer, vice president of market development for Pier 39; Shannon Sweeney-Pruitt, vice president of integrated marketing and sponsorship at FremantleMedia (and a Warsaw Center alumna); and Pat Zeedick, vice president and general manager of Nike's Global Equipment Division. Though all three women offered great advice and perspective on their own careers, it was really valuable to see Sweeny-Pruitt hold her own with fellow industry leaders. As a former Women in Sports Business Symposium organizer, she really represents how this event develops a new generation of successful women in our industry.
Later that evening, attendees enjoyed a networking reception and dinner to honor Lopiano. She was an inspiration to all in attendance, giving a motivating keynote speech on the future of women in sports. Noting that the glass ceilings still exist today--not just for women but for minorities as well--Lopiano praised the Warsaw Center's Women in Sports Business Symposium as instrumental in developing young professionals, both male and female, who understand the importance of gender and racial equity both on and off the field.