WNBA leads all leagues in diversity hiring again with 'unprecedented' top-mark streak

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The WNBA once again leads all leagues in diversity hiring with a grade of A+ in racial, gender and overall hiring practices, Sports Business Daily reported Wednesday. And it even improved on its sparkling resume.

The high marks by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) were announced on National Women and Girls in Sport Day. The league and its teams are celebrating the day with panels, cute (and impactful) social posts and enthusiastic encouragement.

WNBA: Top marks on gender, racial hiring

The WNBA got an A+ grade in both racial and gender hiring in the 2020 year, making a triple-double of top hiring marks. It extended an incredible streak for the league that turns 25 years old in the upcoming season.

“They have gone 16 consecutive years of never getting a grade for race, gender or the overall grade of less than an A,” TIDES Director Richard Lapchick said, via Sports Business Daily. “Those are unprecedented in many other leagues that they are compared to.”

It received a 96.7 percent in racial hiring and a 98 percent in gender hiring. The only leagues close to the WNBA’s racial hiring marks were the NBA (A+) and MLS (A).

Last year, the league experienced fan blowback after the New York Liberty hired Walt Hopkins, a white man, as head coach following only three seasons as an assistant under Cheryl Reeve in Minnesota. It reignited a conversation about what women, and specifically Black women, have to prove to get those opportunities.

This offseason, the Dallas Wings hired Vickie Johnson as their head coach, making her the only Black woman head coach currently in the league. She’s a former head coach and longtime assistant who helped lead the Las Vegas Aces and MVP A’ja Wilson to the 2020 WNBA Finals.

WNBA sets all-time diversity highs

WNBA logo on the court.
The WNBA got a triple-double of A+ marks in hiring. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The league had all-time highs in the percentage of women in team CEO/president positions, women in team vice president and above positions, and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) in assistant coaching positions.

Seven of 12 team CEO/president positions are held by women, an increase of two from last season. And for the first time in five years, the number of women in league office positions increased, moving from 48.9 percent in 2019 to 60.9 percent in 2020.

The league can work on the number of women in general manager roles, per the report card, with only 27.3 percent for 2020.

“They can emphasize that in the future, but overall, they are definitely the standard setter,” Lapchick said, via SBD. “I think the WNBA is the model for America, whether it’s in sports or out of sports.”

WNBA’s activism in 2020

The WNBA’s activism was not quiet in 2020 as they literally helped changed the makeup of Congress and flipped Georgia to the Democrats.

The efforts were in direct response to Atlanta Dream owner Kelly Loeffler using the WNBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement as part of her Senate candidacy. She was appointed to the position a year ago, but lost the election to Raphael Warnock.

The WNBA players honored “Say Her Name” and social justice causes throughout the season. And after the Seattle Storm won the WNBA championship, Alysha Clark dedicated the title to “little Black girls and Black women across this country.”

The league’s players have long been proponents of racial and gender equality. They celebrated girls inclusion in sports on Wednesday with virtual discussions.

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Individual teams hosted conversations throughout the day and the league used an #AtHomeRecess call to get girls involved and action at home while the pandemic is still going on, and while many in the northeast were covered in multiple feet of snow.

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