Sports Tech: How Women Are Breaking Into a $25B Industry
with Marilou McFarlane of Women in Sports Tech
Technology is transforming the world of sports, from influencing how athletes train and compete, to how fans engage and consume content. Sports tech is a growing $25 billion industry – but women are underrepresented in this competitive market.
Marilou McFarlane, CEO of Women in Sports Tech, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss efforts to increase representation among women in the sports tech pipeline.
February 28, 2022
Anderson: Athletes are using advanced technologies to improve their training, companies are investing heavily in wearables and high-tech gadgets, and esports are changing the very definition of what we call athletics. These are just a few examples of the world of sports tech, and today we'll look at how women are faring in this new arena. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Sports tech is a $25 billion industry, and it's growing fast. By 2026, it's expected to be worth $42 billion, but women are underrepresented in this competitive market. And joining me today to talk about how to increase their participation is Marilou McFarlane, CEO of Women in Sports Tech. Marilou, thanks for being here.
McFarlane: Tetiana, it's so nice for you to have me. It's an honor and thank you very much. It's a subject I really enjoy talking about and telling others about.
Anderson: So I want to start out with this idea of what the sports tech industry is because I think that a lot of people might not be familiar with it. So what is it? What does it include?
McFarlane: Really, we define it very broadly as any business that's at the intersection of sports, technology, and innovation. So this includes everything from athlete, team, and coach performance, biometrics, biomechanics, assistive technologies for disabled athletes, footwear and apparel biomechanics that help improve athlete performance and avoid injury. Then the business side, which is fan engagement, venue and event innovation, digital media, the front and back office of team and leagues in sports, esports, fantasy sports, and betting. We define it very, very broadly.
Anderson: So why is it so particularly important to advocate for women in this industry?
McFarlane: Well, as you might imagine, we're still about 80% of our industry in terms of leadership is white men, but notably our community at Women in Sports Tech is half men, half women. So we work hard together to bring programs that allow employers to not only impact their pipeline of talent, but also improve their cultures and enhance their cultures to create more of an environment of inclusivity and belonging so that women, when they do join our business, will want to stay in the business.
Anderson: And what about some of the women and girls that you have worked with? I mean, where do they end up and what have they been doing to change the game, so to speak, when it comes to increasing diversity in the sports tech industry?
McFarlane: Well, we know that internships can absolutely change a young woman's life, and so we have our WiST Fellowship program, which is our flagship initiative that offers $5,000 grants, plus a travel and housing stipend, for young women, college and grad students to get experience in an internship opportunity they would never know about otherwise. So a good example would be Sarah Lewis, who's an undergrad at NC State studying industrial design, and we paired her with Game Changer and Dick's Sporting Goods. So she helped to actually create -- to develop a product that allows for live-streaming at youth sports events for coaches and parents to easily share in real time with grandparents who may live across the country, how their little kid is doing at sports or their high school or league, more elite youth athlete might be. So she's been an extraordinary example. I would also say Alexis Medrano, who's getting a master's in kinesiology at USC. She did a program with Catapult in athlete performance and user experience this summer in Boston. So these were all experiences that absolutely not only improved the student's life and gave her meaningful experience on her résumé as she goes forward, but also brought incredible value to the companies where they worked.
Anderson: So to that point, it's great to see you sort of teeing up these women, you know, you're putting them in the pipeline. You touched on this earlier, but it's such an important point. I wonder how much of this is also about shifting the culture within these companies, and where do you want that to be in the future? What's the goal?
McFarlane: Well, the goal over the next five years is that there's a lot more parity and a lot more equity in terms of the opportunities, and importantly, what our community provides is more than just the opportunity, but also the courage and the confidence in the community to go after it. And then we work with incredible CEOs of companies because we know the culture starts at the top, and they make the intention and it's more than just talking the talk. They take advantage of our specific programs that allow them to walk the walk and see measurable change in terms of their percent of female employees, but also all underrepresented minorities in this space, and that would include all people of color, disabled people, veterans. We really work to bring opportunity to every underrepresented minority group in this space, and these employers are looking for them. They know that sports is a very diverse... you know, business and lifestyle, and they want to make sure that the work that they do, it enhances that.
Anderson: There's just so much to talk about here. I know that viewers are probably going to want to know more. So when they do, what's your website? Where can they go?
McFarlane: They should go to womeninsportstech.org, and they can find all kinds of information on our programs and our content there.
Anderson: Marilou McFarlane of Women in Sports Tech, thank you so much for being here.
McFarlane: Tetiana, thank you so much for having me.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and around the country, just log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.