These principles have helped make the Commissioner of the BIG EAST Conference an inspiration for women everywhere

By Lindsey Estes, Director of Meetings & Member Services, LMA

This week, whilte attening the Villanova University Leadership Summit: Women Igniting Change I was reminded of the powerful place women have in the businessworld and the challenges and opportunitites that are before us.

Local Media Association President Nancy Lane served as the co-chair for this event. I was happy to be invited to take part in it.

The keynote speech by Val Ackerman who serves as the Commissioner of the BIG EAST Conference, really resonated with me.

Val has had one heck of a career from being the founding President of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) to serving as Past President of USA Basketball. She is a female that has pushed all boundaries in a male dominated sports industry.

Val talked about how when she was younger (which wasn’t that long ago) there were no organized sports for girls outside of cheerleading or gymnastics. All Val wanted to do was play basketball, so she strung up lights in her driveway and shot hoops all day and night. It wasn’t until high school when she able to play basketball in an organized league at school. Her skills landed her a partial scholarship to play basketball at UVA. It was only partial because it paid for her classes and the other half paid for her teammate’s room and board. “I got to go to class, my teammates got to sleep and eat,” she said.

As I was listening to her story, I couldn’t help but think about my 4 year-old-daughter who is currently playing in a girl’s basketball league. She played soccer at age 3 in an organized league. It is from the hard work of Val and all the others who have come before us that give my daughter this opportunity to have sports play such a major role in her life at such a young age. Hopefully she’ll never know a world where she can’t play because she’s a girl.

As Val continued her presentation, she provided some advice and principals she lives her life by:

  • Get good at dealing with failure. How you come back stronger is what matters.
  • To the young professionals: find a passion you care about.
  • “90% of life is showing up.” (Quote by Woody Allen). Get involved, go to the networking event, meet new people.
  • Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You never get a 2nd

When describing what leadership means to her, she left the audience with these three core values:

  • Innovation: strategic vision, fostering a climate of trust, knowing change is needed, able to adopt and adjust
  • Learning: constantly striving to learn
  • Collaboration: together we can do so much

Here are some facts Val shared with the audience during her speech:

  • There are over 200,000 female NCAA student athletes
  • Less than 10% of NCAA athletic directors are female
  • 49% of the athletes in the Rio Olympics were female
  • Team USA at the Rio Olympics was 53% female

The speeches throughout the day were quite inspiring. These are some of the highlights and core themes throughout the conference:

  • To have an impact and be successful, earn the respect of those around you.
  • People like to do business with people they like. You are your own brand. Own it.
  • Find your passion and figure out where the jobs are.
  • Leadership skills needed to be successful:
    • Tenacity
    • Patience
    • Own your decisions and mistakes
    • Empathy

“Be who you are and own it. You are here to enrich the world.”