Women in sports task force formed in Michigan
Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-16, which establishes the Task Force on Women in Sports within the Department of State and chaired by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
This task force – the first of its kind at a state government level – will bring together local and national leaders to develop strategies that support and promote opportunities in Michigan for girls and women in sports.
“Young girls and women who are participating in sports in Michigan deserve the same opportunities as their male counterparts. These possibilities extend well beyond time on the playing field,” Whitmer said. “Playing basketball in high school allowed me to develop leadership skills while learning about the importance of teamwork. When women participate in a variety of sports, it allows them to explore these meaningful opportunities.”
Even with the enactment of Title IX, nearly 50 years ago, opportunities for girls and women in sports remain limited and more work remains to fully even the playing field.
Female athletes routinely face lower levels of investment, training resources and safety assurances than their male counterparts.
Currently, in Michigan, only one Division 1 athletic program is led by a woman.
“This is a chance for Michigan to become a national model for advancing opportunities for all women to lead in every arena,” Benson said. “Sports is a great equalizer in our society, and research shows that women who play sports are more likely to seek and fill leadership positions in other sectors. I look forward to leading this important effort and developing solutions to level the playing field in opportunities for women in sports in our state.”
Prior to serving as Michigan secretary of state, Benson served as a prominent voice and thought leader in the area of sports and equality.
She is a founding board member and former CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a national nonprofit organization created to advance equality through sports.
At Wayne State University Law School, where she served as dean, Benson taught and developed courses on Gender Equity and Sports and Inequality.
“Women and girls of all backgrounds derive multiple benefits from opportunities to play sports – from lessons in confidence, courage, resilience and perseverance, to gains in physical health and psychological well-being,” Benson said. “This task force will bring together local and national leaders in sports and education to evaluate this inequality by examining these systematic problems from both a historical and current perspective.”
Following that detailed assessment, the task force will develop recommendations to the governor and state of Michigan on legislation, policies, investments and programs to address the problems and position Michigan as a national leader in empowering women to lead.Members appointed to the task force are:
- Penny Allen-Cook, commissioner of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, who has worked for more than 30 years as a coach and administrator at the youth, high school and collegiate levels. She has championed women’s advancement in sports by teaching in the Coaching Advancement Program courses offered by the Michigan High School Athletic Association, committee involvement with the NCAA, facilitating women’s leadership programs and mentoring female athletic administrators. She is a member of American Volleyball Coaches Association, We Coach and Women’s Leaders in College Sports.
- Dr. Ketra Armstrong, an associate dean, professor of sport management and faculty athletics representative at the University of Michigan. She is a former collegiate student-athlete, coach and administrator and served as president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport.
- Kathy Beauregard, who has served as director of intercollegiate athletics at Western Michigan University for 22 years and is the longest-serving director in the country serving the same university. She is one of nine women directors out of 136 Division I Football Playing Institutions.
- Keri Becker, who has spent her entire professional career in college athletics. She began as a softball and tennis student-athlete at Saginaw Valley State University and moved directly into a head softball coach position at Ferris State University for 15 years before becoming an associate athletic director/senior woman administrator at Grand Valley State University in 2011. Appointed in 2016, she is director of athletics at Grand Valley.
- Lorin Cartwright, retired athletic director and athletic trainer from Pioneer High School. She was first president of the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers’ Association and is author of eight textbooks.
- Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of Michigan Women Forward, a statewide origination that focuses on increasing access to capital for women, creating the next generation of young women leaders and creating measurable equity for women. Cassin is also founder and general partner of the Belle Impact Fund, Michigan’s first venture fund made up of 57 women investors who invest solely in women-owned businesses.
- Dr. Judi Brown Clarke, diversity director for the BEACON Center at Michigan State University. She has experienced great athletic success, including 12-Big Ten championship titles, five national titles and a silver medal in the 1984 Olympic Games. She recently was voted onto the U.S. Anti-Doping Association Committee and will start her term this fall after completing a term as vice president of the U.S. Olympians & Paralympians Association.
- Cali Crawford, who commencing July 1 will be appointed director of athletics at Schoolcraft College. In her role as director, Crawford handles day-to-day operations of student athlete-recruitment and retention, overall management of athletics and compliance. She also serves as At-Large Board of Regent for the Nation Junior College Athletic Association.
- Joanne C. Gerstner, an award-winning author and multi-platform sports journalist for outlets such as The Detroit News, USA Today, ESPN and The New York Times. She is the sports journalist in residence at the School of Journalism at Michigan State University.
- Jennifer Grange, an advocate for nonprofit and charitable causes, having served her communities for over 12 years as a volunteer, fundraiser and voice for families and children most in need. As a mother of two girls with the unique perspective of supporting the activities of professional sports teams in New York, California and Michigan, she is prepared to harness her experience for female athletes to expand leadership pathways for women in sports.
- Mike Guswiler, who leads the West Michigan Sports Commission, a nonprofit that serves to promote health and wellness through sport and acts as an economic engine in the region by generating sport tourism. He also serves on the West Michigan Miracle League Board providing opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in sport and is a member of Pure Michigan Sports, a statewide destination marketing group made up of 14 Michigan cities.
- Carol Hutchins, who has spent 35 years as head coach for softball at the University of Michigan and is the winningest coach in National Collegiate Athletic Association history.
- Sam Mullet, who was a three-sport athlete while attending high school at Bear Lake and now serves there as the offensive coordinator for the varsity football team. In her free time, she enjoys golfing, snowboarding, reading and taking in as many sporting events as possible.
- Erika Swilley, senior director of community and social responsibility for the Detroit Pistons. Previously, she spent time in community relations for the Chicago Sky/Sky Cares Foundation and Golden State Warriors. In her role, Swilley coordinates the philanthropic initiatives of the Pistons and their players.