Women in male-dominated industries can find it difficult and isolating at times, shut out from the tertiary aspects of a job that are baked into corporate male culture to facilitate professional advancement. That sort of atmosphere can turn away some of the best minds in the business.
Building relationships, sharing lessons learned and women helping each other were dominant themes in the hour-plus discussion on women in sports hosted by the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and sponsored by First Citizens Bank, We Matter Too Inc. and JSK Marketing.
Allison Fillmore, Vice President of Business Development for the PGA Tour, recounted the story of what led her to the WNBA.
“I was at the Atlanta Falcons, and I had been there for five years, worked my butt off, I was No. 1 in sales, was promoted to premium sales manager, and I went to my boss and I said, ‘You know what … I want this Director of Ticket Sales position that’s open right now,’” Fillmore said. “And he said to me, ‘Allison, you know what, you bring a little too much drama … and I don’t think you’re good for this role.’
“I took this as an opportunity, and I want to say this to everyone — nothing is a bad situation, you can look at everything like an opportunity.”
Fillmore looked at that situation as a chance for change. When the WNBA recruited her, she was ready to make the move.
“I was one of the first employees there,” Fillmore said. “It was probably the best thing I could ever put on my résumé. I will tell you, I learned so much from starting an organization to hiring people — it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”
The Jumbo Shrimp’s Linda McNabb, the club’s Senior Vice President of Sales, had a similar tale at a previous workplace where the results didn’t match the subpar evaluation of her communication skills. She also reflected on the virtual mile of books at big-box bookstores on bridging communication divides between men and women.
“I was a great salesperson and you can’t be a bad communicator if you’re a great salesperson,” McNabb said. “What I’ve learned in this is that I may not be a great communicator — I think I have to learn to be a better listener and better communicator when it comes to all situations.”
Several panelists discussed the need for and importance of women in leadership providing a mentor-mentee relationship with other women in the office to develop that shared knowledge of what it takes to be successful in that arena. Another thing to remember, Lauren Muni said, is not to unnecessarily limit yourself.
“Truly I do think, at least for me, myself getting in the way until I finally got out of my own way to get that confidence to speak in front of a room, and to speak in front of mainly guys in my work,” said Muni, Vice President of Marketing at Zawyer Sports, about being a younger woman in that environment.
Zawyer Sports is involved in the ownership of the Jacksonville Icemen hockey franchise.
In general, McNabb said she would tell her younger self to be less afraid and take chances with her career to get her where she wanted to go — hearing a “no” while in pursuit of your goal isn’t the last word if you don’t let it be.
“I think that if I were to give advice to other women, and I said this to my own daughter repeatedly, just don’t be afraid,” McNabb said. “What’s it going to hurt? If you fall on your face or you fall down, just get up off the ground.”