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True North Living » Live » Women in Sports » How Women Can Grow and Thrive in Sports Management Careers

The new one-year Sport and Event Marketing program at Fanshawe College promotes gender diversity in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Erin Pearson

Erin Pearson

Professor, Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, Fanshawe College

If you’re a woman looking for an exciting and fast-paced career, you might want to consider sports management. Not only is this a rapidly-growing industry, but it’s also gender-diverse and inclusive, and has high female leadership representation. “About 43 percent of executive positions in national sport are occupied by women, compared to about 19 percent for the rest of corporate Canada,” says Erin Pearson, Professor at the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., and PhD candidate at Western University.

Patrice Whiffen

Patrice Whiffen

Marketing, Events, & Multimedia Specialist & Professor, Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, Fanshawe College

Partly driving this trend is the increased media coverage of women’s sports and the fact that more women, in general, are becoming sports fans. “I think the old-school mentality of sports being just for the boys is out the window,” says Patrice Whiffen, Marketing, Events, and Multimedia Specialist and Professor at Fanshawe’s Lawrence Kinlin School of Business.

Another driver is sports organizations “recognizing the untapped market potential of women’s sport and the value that women’s perspectives, opinions, and ideas bring to their bottom line,” says Pearson. “This has translated into more women being represented in sports organizations, and we expect this trend to increase,” adds Whiffen.

About 43 percent of executive positions in national sport are occupied by women, compared to about 19 percent for the rest of corporate Canada.


Preparing students for a sports management career

To help students and employers capitalize on this trend, Fanshawe College recently launched an innovative one-year Graduate Certificate program called the Sport and Event Marketing program through the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business.

Bill Reid

Bill Reid

Program Coordinator & Professor, Human Resources, Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, Fanshawe College

“The program offers a variety of courses designed to prepare students for industry work,” says Bill Reid, Program Coordinator of the Sport and Event Marketing Graduate Certificate and Professor, Human Resources at Fanshawe College. Though open to all genders, the program was created with gender diversity and inclusion in mind — from course content to gender-balanced faculty to ensuring diversity on the advisory committee.

Versatility, experiential learning, and building industry connections

Practicality and experiential learning are key elements of the program. “Many courses contain what we call live client interactions, project-based work, and experiences that help students achieve course learning outcomes and develop essential employability skills that are aligned with industry work requirements,” says Reid.

Additionally, the Signature Innovative Learning Experience (SILEx), embedded in all programs offered at Fanshawe, culminates in a 490-hour internship for this program. “This allows students to demonstrate their learning in an experiential environment, preparing them for transition to the workplace,” adds Reid.

The college’s industry partnerships, affiliations, and close connections to many major organizations in the London region enable students to interact with industry professionals and build critical relationships, networks, and mentorship opportunities.

Upon completion of the program, students have acquired functional knowledge and practical skills in core sports management areas, including professional and amateur sports organizations, minor sports associations, private and public sports facilities, not-for-profit groups, telecommunications companies, and other sports-related businesses.

There are currently two intakes for the Sport and Event Marketing full-time program — one in fall and one in winter — and starting in September 2022, this Graduate Certificate program will also be offered as a part-time online option. “This additional delivery method will give students even more flexibility and opportunity to complete the program, especially those who are working full-time but want to get the academic background in the field,” says Reid.

Finding your place in the industry

Despite the current pandemic, Reid believes that now is a great time for women to enter the industry. “I think with the pause of large gatherings and events, a lot of organizations have suffered significant turnover, but we’re beginning to see a demand trend on the horizon,” says Reid.

Thanks to the program’s versatility and broad content range, graduates will have the knowledge and skills to meet this demand head-on. “One of the amazing things about the program is that students take a range of courses that give them a taste of all these different areas of sport, whether that be sport leadership, sponsorship, sport marketing, events management, media or public relations,” says Pearson.

Another plus is “the practicality of the program which enables students to cultivate job skills required to be successful in the industry and to build those close connections with their professors and industry professionals,” adds Pearson. “The program’s flexibility lets students cater the experience to their strengths and what they care about the most,” says Whiffen.

From there, the possibilities are endless with multiple paths to career success. “Unlike becoming a lawyer, for example, which is a step-by-step process, there are multiple ways to cultivate a career path in the sports world,” says Whiffen. “If you want to pursue a career with a charity, a non-profit, or a local grassroots organization, you can do that. If you want to focus exclusively on the Olympics, you can do that. Or you might want to work on the business side, like team operations, or the technical and analytics side,” says Whiffen.

Best of all, you don’t even have to be a sports fan. “The sports industry is so much more than just what’s played on the field, on the ice, or on the courts,” says Whiffen. “It’s a massive industry, and there are so many different ways women can be involved, whether you’re a sports fan or not.”

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