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Donna Lopiano, Ph.D. - Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation

Dr. Lopiano is currently Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation. The Foundation is a charitable educational organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to participation and leadership opportunities for all girls and women in sports and fitness. It is among the top grant-giving public women’s funds in the United States, distributing between $500,000 - 1 million in grants to girls’ and women’s sports programs each year.


Annually, the Foundation:

  • Responds to over 100,000 requests for public information
  • Distributes over 2 million pieces of educational materials
  • Generates 1 billion media impressions of its facts and opinions on women’s sports issues
  • Advocates in over 100 gender equity situations

Age:

59

Title:

Chief Executive Officer, Women’s Sports Foundation

Previous Job:

Director of Women’s Athletics, Univ. of Texas at Austin

First Job:

Asst. Professor, Brooklyn College, City Univ. of New York

Education:

B.S., M.A. Ph.D.

Resides:

Long Beach, NY

Grew up:

Stamford, CT

Person most admired:

Barbara Jordan

Favorite movie:

Bend It Like Beckham

Favorite musician:

Bruce Springsteen

Favorite book:

Harry Potter series, mysteries of all kinds

Your take on race, gender, and women sports.
Every group that has been discriminated against because of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, etc. has a tough road to climb. The majority groups in power are willing to share basic entry level access to participation opportunities (sport, employment, etc.) but as soon as economic advancement become an issue – access to CEO positions, high paying jobs, the highest political positions, etc. – progress slows to a snail’s pace. It is very difficult for many people to share power and wealth. The only thing all of us can do is to lead a life in which we constantly fight for the rights of all to equal opportunity. Laws don’t eliminate discrimination; they simply drive discrimination underground because they outlaw overt discrimination. In many ways, this makes discrimination harder to fight because it isn’t as easily seen.


You are listed among the top executives in the sports industry in publications such as The Sporting News and Sports Business Journal and considered an expert on Title IX and gender equity issues. What is your role as CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation?
The CEO supervises, directs and controls the business and daily affairs of the Foundation. She reports regularly to the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, the two groups of prominent volunteers and business people who are responsible for the legal operation of the Foundation. I attend all of their meetings. In addition, the CEO is responsible for the overall operation of the Foundation. Specific responsibilities include:

  • Financial Management - Maintain strong internal controls to assure fiduciary responsibilities inherent with non-profit organizations.
  • Fund Raising/Marketing - Develop and manage programs that expand the base of resources available to the Foundation to carry out Foundation programs.
  • Board Liaison - Coordinate Trustee and Advisory Board activities.
  • Staff Management - Manage Foundation's professional staff and the office operations.
  • Communications - Oversee all aspects of WSF communications and public relations and act as a spokesperson for the organization
  • Foundation Goals - Work with the Board of Trustees to set goals annually which directly relate to the WSF mission and long term goals.
  • Officer - Serves as an officer of the Board of Trustees


Working with Billie Jean King?
Billie Jean is truly one of the most incredible people in sport. She has an inherent sense of right and wrong which makes her a perfect social justice advocate on so many fronts. She believes that each person can act to make the world a better place and always challenges people to achieve that goal. She is full of energy and ideas and keeps an amazing pace. She really enjoys people and “gets into” everyone she meets. She is a great leader, always pushing people to do their best.


What is your biggest challenge?
As the head of a non-profit organization, raising $6 million dollars every year so we can do our good work is always the biggest challenge. It’s a constant pressure. There is so much to do and resources are necessary to make a difference.


What’s the biggest career risk you’ve taken?
Testifying before Congress on the need for Title IX early in my career when I arrived at the University of Texas and used the University of Texas men’s and women’s budgets as illustrations of inequality.


What’s the first word that comes to mind to the following?
Share - Unselfish. Real sharing is giving when you are feeling most selfish about keeping that which would benefit someone else.
Educate - Teach
Empower - Encourage


How does race/ethnicity and gender impact socialization into sport-related careers?
Women and men and women of color and minority races/ethnic groups need to realize that its one thing to get a job but wholly another thing to be accepted into the social construct of powerful people or majority groups. Much decision-making is done outside of work time in informal social settings where access is still denied to minority group members.


If you could change anything about how women’s sports are viewed, what would it be?
Simply more women’s sports contests on television so that people see how extraordinary female athletes really are. Reality busts stereotypes.


What advise would you give women wanting a career in sports?
Find a mentor who is powerful and who can help you meet the right people. Relationships are everything. The more people you know, especially people who are successful in sports, the more access you will have to the sports industry.

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