I went to an all girls school, so the idea that the dream was a virtual impossibility didn’t exist in my mind. After all, at an all girls school, girls were the class presidents, the science team captains and the MVPs.
A mere seven years later, I would find myself as an entry-level publicist at the National Hockey League. What business did I have in a sport that is the bastion of guy-dom? I was a 90-pound, five-foot-high Filipino girl who grew up accustomed to ice in her drinks and not under her feet.
Recently, the world has been treated to salacious headlines about sexism and harassment in sports.
Usually, women are doing the charging, and men are doing the defending. There are instances when the cases have been valid. But in my more than 18 years of working at male-dominated environments like the NHL, ESPN and Madison Square Garden, I never once felt violated, compromised or harassed.
Often times, what is overlooked when companies like ESPN and MSG are crucified by media and critics is how these same companies go out of their way to make the environment a wonderful one for women.
I spent many of my formative years at the NHL, among colleagues who would eventually see me get married and have a child. The NHL’s human resources policies are very progressive, allowing women flexible work schedules and generous maternity leaves. While I was there, they even made provisions for women who need in vitro fertilization and paid for them.
After the NHL, I assumed the position of director at ESPN, which has faced its share of targeted criticism about its sexist environment. But no better male-dominated workplace exists than at the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
While there, I was given flexible work hours that allowed me to go to my child’s doctor appointments and flexible work days that gave me the choice of working one day a week from home. I also was offered emergency back-up childcare services, not to mention all the passes to DisneyWorld and Disneyland I could ever want.
At Madison Square Garden, I worked a lot of late nights at basketball and hockey games, but I never missed a school parent-teacher conference or a recital. In fact, the Garden often treated employees and their families to complimentary tickets for Radio City and MSG family shows, like The Christmas Spectacular and Cirque du Soleil.
For those who do not spend their workdays entrenched in the sports workplace, it may be hard to imagine that sports industry companies are a lot more women-friendly than people may believe. I would argue that they do more than most to nurture an environment that supports and promotes women.
Sandra Carreon-John is an 18-year veteran of the sports and entertainment PR industry. She currently serves as senior vice president of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, a global, award-winning PR and Marketing Communications agency, where she oversees the NY headquarters in midtown Manhattan.