Doctoral student organizes first sports forum for women
Thanks to College of Education doctoral student Ashley Baker, over 100 female students and professionals gathered earlier this month at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit to engage in a day of sharing, educating and empowerment.
Baker, who will graduate this fall with a doctoral degree in sport management and policy, created the first annual Women in Sports Forum to help encourage and educate future women leaders in the sports industry.
"The Women in Sports Forum is a creation of something I wish existed 10 years ago when I began my career," said Baker. "It is extremely important for us as women to continually be encouraging and supporting one another. We must surround ourselves with people who build us up and push us to be better each and every day."
Last fall, Baker asked several of her colleagues, mentors and friends if they were interested in sharing their experiences and knowledge to other women in the sports industry. With an overwhelmingly positive response, Baker, who also serves as the assistant athletics director of Xavier University of Louisiana, began planning for the event.
"The most amazing part of the process was when I reached out to Jemele Hill of ESPN's 'His and Hers,'" she said. "I asked her to be our keynote speaker because I understand the importance of role models and young women seeing women who look like them and who come from where they come from. I knew she would have a message for the young women in the city of Detroit whose shoes she walked in not too long ago."
Accompanying Hill were a group of women speakers and panelists from across the sports industry, including academia, college athletics, media and physical wellness.
According to Baker, it's important for participants to hear from other women because the female experience and the challenges women face in the field vary dramatically from person to person.
"Our speakers have experienced a number of challenges throughout their careers, yet they all are still making a positive impact in the sports industry and the most important thing is they are leaders in a field that doesn't always provide women with opportunities to lead," added Baker. "We must continue to provide spaces and platforms for their stories to be shared with those who will follow in their footsteps."
In a recap of the event, Jordan Watters, a UGA graduate student majoring in sport management and policy, said she felt more inspired and motivated to pursue her own career dreams after listening to each speaker's journey in the industry.
Next year, Baker plans to expand the forum's partnership to include more high schools and local sports organizations. Participants will be able to enjoy more breakout sessions specifically designed to better prepare high school students applying to sport management programs.
"While we will hold this event annually in Detroit, we also want to expand the locations and visit other cities throughout the country to inspire more women to pursue a career in sports," said Baker.
Baker, who spent most of her pre-college years in Michigan, received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Her doctoral thesis focuses on black mothers' experiences throughout their sons' football recruiting process. In 2015, she founded Ash B. Consulting, LLC to empower young athletes and professionals to pursue their personal and professional goals.