Monday, June 30, 2014

One Good Thing The Supreme Court Did For Gay Rights Today

by Zack Ford
Originally Published: June 30th, 2014

The Liberty Counsel's Mat and Anita Staver
The Liberty Counsel’s Mat and Anita Staver
It remains unclear what consequences the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision might have for LGBT equality, but the Supreme Court did take one other action Monday that is actually a small win for gay rights. Before issuing the day’s two big decisions, the Court refused to grant cert to a case challenging California’s ban on ex-gay therapy for minors, leaving the ban in place.
California was the first state to pass a law protecting minors from being subjected to therapies that attempt to de-gay their sexual orientations in 2012. Conservative groups promptly sued on behalf of ex-gay therapists who felt the ban infringed on their freedom of speech with clients. After two conflicting lower court rulings, the Ninth Circuit ruled last summer that the ban is constitutional. The conservative groups appealed to the Supreme Court, but its decision not to hear it means that the cases are over and the ban remains in place.
Mat Staver, head of the Liberty Counsel, which represents some of the ex-gay therapists who sued, told BarbWire that he is “deeply saddened” for the children who will be denied treatment, “many of whom,” he claimed, “developed these unwanted attractions because of abuse of a pedophile.” He went on to claim that they have now been “victimized twice” — “first by the likes of Jerry Sandusky” and now by lawmakers and judges protecting their “unwanted and dangerous same-sex sexual attractions and behavior.”
Staver’s repeated insistence that pedophilia — specifically with references to convicted serial child molester Jerry Sandusky — causes homosexuality has proven even too controversialfor other anti-LGBT groups like Focus on the Family. Staver has also suggested that “the law allows homosexuals to ‘entrap’ and ‘groom’ children into the homosexual lifestyle.”
In contrast, the American Psychology Association has condemned ex-gay therapy as ineffective because sexual orientation cannot be manipulated. Survivors of the treatment have testified to the mental health harms they experienced when subjecting themselves to the shame-based counseling.

Though the Court’s decision leaves California’s ban in place, it’s not the last legal challenge bans on ex-gay therapy will face. New Jersey also passed such a ban last year, and the Liberty Counsel is also challenging that ban on behalf of the ex-gay therapists professional organization NARTH. A district court judge ruled in November that the ban was constitutional and the Liberty Counsel has appealed to the Third Circuit. If it rules differently than the Ninth Circuit did, it could force the Supreme Court to mitigate the conflicting decisions and weigh in on the merits of ex-gay therapy in the future.

Read the original article from Think Progress here:

Millennial Women Start Out Ahead, So What's Holding Them Back?

by Natalie Sportelli
Originally Published: June 30th, 2014

The gender gap separates women from their male peers in the workplace, salary, and self-esteem. But when exactly does the gap appear, cracking the common ground between men and women?
From an early age, girls take the lead over boys in academics, spanning elementary school to graduate-level education. Women also do well in the entry-level workforce, where millennial women were found to be better prepared for their first jobs by 59% to men’s 41%, according to a recent Bentley University survey. The divide begins to form in sharp relief soon after. 69% of respondents, including decision-makers and corporate recruiters of both genders, said that males are better suited to succeed in today’s business climate than women (31%). Men also came out ahead in preparedness for their entire careers, garnering 53% to women’s 47%.
“There have been institutional and structural barriers in the corporate world for women as well as unconscious bias,” says Gloria Larson, president of Bentley University and founder of the school’s Center for Women and Business. Larson, who led the survey, notes that obstacles including the wage gap, innate gender partiality, and a lack of mentorship are among the reasons women are held back in the workplace. “You lose confidence when you look ahead beyond your first job, at those moving up into higher level positions,” she explains. “You don’t see a lot of women promoted and you get discouraged.”
Results from the survey found that women beat men in decision-making, communication and interpersonal skills, while men pull ahead in leadership skills and entrepreneurial spirit. Men also are quicker to take risks, which may pay off and lead to other opportunities while women tend to act practically which may cause them to be slower to jump. “Women can be risk takers,” says Larson. “[Risk taking] comes from playing sports and opportunities in the classroom, so, it can be built.”
Equal pay for equal work? Women make up 47 percent of the workforce, but the gender wage gap persists. (Photo credit: erix!)
Possible solutions
Journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman believe women’s hesitation may be due to precaution and a lack of self-assurancedeficits that can propel men past women to assume executive level positions and achieve long-term career success. According to their book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, women apply for a promotion when they felt 100% comfortable with their qualifications while men took the chance and applied when they were 50% confident in their abilities.
“We watch our male colleagues take risks, while we hold back until we’re sure we are perfectly ready and perfectly qualified,” Kay and Shipman explain in a recent Atlantic article titled “The Confidence Gap.” Also noting, “The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back.”
However, confidence may only be a small part of the problem. Congress has addressed the issue of the institutional barriers that prevent women from succeeding through passing (some) gender equity legislation. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act turned five years old this year, but, while women can sue for equal pay, the wage gap is not mended. Women still make 77 cents on a man’s dollar.
Upward mobility in the workplace is also a prevalent bias barrier, because only about a quarter of women hold senior management positions. This phenomenon may be caused by sexism or unconscious partiality contrived from men choosing to work with other men. Another barrier includes the lack access to childcare options for working mothers. Some companies, like Google and UPS, have started offering female-specific leadership development programs that provide women with mentorship, professional feedback, and the opportunity to perfect their leadership skills. But, generally, the business world has been slow to catch on.
“There are innate assumptions that most successful founders and CEOs are men because you go into the boardroom and see that there are more men than women in those seats,” says Erica Bell, co-founder of e-commerce startupHukkster. “Helping women into those roles will break down cultural expectations and encourage more women to push themselves to the top.” She add: “[It also depends on] more investors taking risks and supporting female founders once we have females in these roles.”
The problem of perception
Among the many walls that separate professional men and women, the perception problem may be the hardest to root out. The sense that women are not as prepared as men for the business world is a deeply-ingrained cultural bias. Recently, however, beauty companies such as Pantene are challenging these perceptions by encouraging women to build their confidence by rejecting gender labels and stopping “sorry.”
Pantene’s #ShineStrong campaign recently launched a “Not Sorry” viral video that illustrates how women unnecessarily assume guilt or blame. The video asks why women are always apologizing and portrays them saying “sorry” in their personal and professional lives for speaking, occupying space, and other situations where nothing is their fault. The video tells women “Don’t be sorry” and goes on to show the same situations subtracting “sorry” from the equation. And just like that, the women immediately appear more bold, decisive, and confident.

Read the original article from Forbes here: 

Gender Equality Lessons For Schools In France Cancelled After Parent Protests

Originally Published: June 30th, 2014

PARIS - France is replacing its plan to teach children the "ABCD of equality" between boys and girls after protests by some parents who feared it was a stealth effort to erase gender differences.
The Education Ministry on Monday said it would replace the plan with new training for teachers when the new school year begins in September. From then, teachers will be able to decide how to broach the topic, especially with the youngest students in preschool.
The initial plan was essentially an experiment with 275 schools, and it came under protest from Roman Catholic leaders, the French far right, and some parents groups.
France's Minister for Women's Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, told France 3 television the new plan would include all schools and would be an "improved" version.

Read the original article from Huffington Post here: 

Transgender female workers face added discrimination

by Ahsley Milne-Tyte
Originally Published: June 30th, 2014

For transgender people, work isn’t always an easy place to be – They often face discrimination, and are twice as likely to be unemployed as the rest of the population. Many who do work are under-employed. But transgender experiences at the office can tell us a lot about the status of men and women at work.
Sociologist Kristen Schilt has spent years talking to transgender men and women about their work lives. One guy she interviewed is named Thomas. He’s a lawyer. He’d begun working at his law firm as Susan. Everyone in his firm knew about his transition, but clients and others outside the firm were told Susan had been let go.
Schilt says some time after his transition, his boss told Thomas that a lawyer at another firm said, “He was so glad they had fired Susan, who he had found to be very incompetent, but that he really loved this new guy, Thomas.”
That lawyer had no idea Thomas and Susan were the same person. But they were the same person, with the exact same abilities – Thomas just looked like a man.
Schilt says two-thirds of the transgender men she interviewed found workplace life easier once they left their female days behind. They’d say things like, “I don’t have to back up the claims I’m making. People listen to me more.” They reported having more authority than they’d ever had in their old work lives.
Chris Edwards has experienced that first hand. He’s a transgender man who works in advertising. He now perceives his workplace differently, too.
“As a creative director, and as a male creative director, I started to notice differences with the way women were treated,” he says. “But when I was a woman I didn’t really notice.”
Now he’s quite conscious of the pay gap at his firm. And he says it’s always a woman who’s expected to take the notes in meetings – no matter how senior she is.
Lisa Scheps knows all about that difference in status. When she was living publicly as a man, Scheps ran a business with three male partners. At 40, she told them she was going to start living openly as a female. She wasn’t prepared for their responses.
“One person said to me, ‘How do you expect to deal with business when all you’re going to be thinking about is nail polish?’,” says Scheps.
Her partners pushed her out of the company. Scheps has been an entrepreneur all her life. She thought she’d just start something else as a female business owner.
“My 40 years as man in the business world, I did not know failure,” she says. “Success came very easily to me.”
Not any more. Scheps, who is the co-founder of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, says administrative work is pretty much all she’s been able to find. Her income has fallen dramatically. 
“It’s a very different world that I have discovered for women in the United States versus men in the Unites States,” she says. “It’s just that much harder, you just have to be that much better.”
Like everyone else who’s underemployed, Scheps says she just wants a job that matches her experience.
Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast on women and the workplace called The Broad Experience.

Read the original article from Marketplace here: 

Canadian executives question benefits of social media

Originally Published: June 29th, 2014

Many Canadian executives have dipped their toes into social media, but only a small portion are taking the plunge in a wholehearted way.
The latest C-Suite Survey of business executives unveils a cautious approach, particularly among resource and manufacturing companies. Service firms – especially those interacting regularly with large numbers of customers – are far more open to social media as a marketing and communications tool.
While more than half of the companies surveyed have a Twitter account, and more than 40 per cent have corporate Facebook or LinkedIn pages, the numbers are skewed toward service firms. Those companies are also far more likely to say social media have an important role in corporate communication, and acknowledge that it has changed the way they work. Indeed, almost 80 per cent of service firm executives say they’ll devote more resources to social media in future, while half of manufacturing bosses and only one-third of resource firm executives say they will do so.
The main difference between sectors, said Michael Bernstein, chief executive officer of Capstone Infrastructure Corp., is that “customer interfacing” firms see far more value from social media. Capstone, which owns energy projects across North America, sells power mainly to governments so a social media presence is less important, he said. But the company also owns water and heating utilities in Europe, and these subsidiaries have a bigger social media presence because they deal with retail customers.
Canadian Zinc Corp., a Vancouver-based company with a mine in the Northwest Territories and several prospects in Newfoundland, exemplifies the cautious approach to social media taken by the resource sector. The firm has a Twitter account, but uses it mainly to disseminate press releases.
“We figure we should try to have a presence,” said chief financial officer Trevor Cunningham, but he noted that mining companies face strict regulations on what they can say about resources and reserves. “We can’t say a lot without getting into trouble.” Mining firms don’t need to market their products broadly, he added, so there is relatively little value from the potential connections made through social media.
At the other end of the spectrum are companies such as Softchoice Corp., a Toronto firm whose business involves connecting customers with technology. It has active Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, a series of blogs, and its chief executive David MacDonald tweets from his own account.
It makes sense to embrace social media as a reflection of the company’s culture, but they are also a valuable tool to communicate quickly and effectively, said Mr. MacDonald. “I can’t think of a company that doesn’t want to communicate with shareholders and employees, and make sure that people understand who they are and what they are doing.”
Softchoice is shifting advertising spending from traditional media to social media, where it gets “extraordinarily good economic leverage,” he said. That’s a move being made by well more than half of service firms, but only 39 per cent of manufacturing companies and 7 per cent of resource firms, according to the C-Suite Survey.
Many executives expressed concerns about the risks of social media. Three-quarters of executives who responded to the survey said social media open up “reputational risks” for their companies, while 56 per cent said their benefits for business are exaggerated. Even among those whose firms have social media accounts, more than half said they do not appear to help the bottom line.
Brian Gronberg, president of recreational vehicle rental firm CanaDream Corp., said the Calgary-based company has active Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Flickr accounts. “Is it driving more business to us? Who knows?” Mr. Gronberg said.
Willy Kruh, global chair of consumer markets at KPMG, said the reluctance of many Canadian executives to embrace social media reflects their inability to “think out of the box.”
All companies need to get their message out, he said, and social media are a powerful tool for doing that, if used strategically. “They talk about reputational risk or brand risk, but I would put it the other way. There is a risk from not using it. … Don’t put your head in the sand.”
While many executives are still feeling their way through the new environment, a minority – 30 per cent – actively discourage employees from using social media at work. Sixty per cent of companies are neutral about their use at work, the survey found, and 9 per cent encourage their use.
A quarter of the executives who responded to the C-Suite Survey tweet under their own name.
“I do have LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook,” said Michael Bernstein, CEO of Capstone Infrastructure Corp. “I’m not very good on any of them. I go to Facebook once every six months. I’ve tweeted twice in my life, and both times my daughter made fun of me.”
Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine Bank, has been on Twitter for five years, has 15,000 followers, and tweets many times daily about leadership, customer service and workplace issues.
David MacDonald, CEO of technology service firm Softchoice Corp. has several hundred followers and tweets occasionally about technology and business. “I use it a lot for listening.”

Read the original article from The Globe and Mail here: 

Another Woman Makes it to the Board - But Many More Still Need Quotas to Get There

by Fiona Hotston Moore
Originally Published: June 30th, 2014

The day when appointing a woman to the board of a FTSE 100 company does not make headlines will be the one to really welcome. But it would be churlish not to applaud the news that mining giant Glencore has, finally, ended the ignominy of being the only top UK company without a female director.

But before we string out the bunting it is worth noting that the arrival of Patrice Merrin to the top table is in a non-executive role. In other words, one without real power or responsibility.

We need temporary quotas to complete the job of giving women a fair chance, and no amount of non-executive roles should become an excuse for denying decision-making authority on the basis of gender. There is also something mildly unsettling about the suggestion that it took Glencore six months to find a suitable woman. Really?

Business Secretary Vince Cable has consistently committed himself to board diversity, but it was a stretch for him to describe the Glencore appointment as historic. Necessary, yes. Overdue, certainly. But historic? In truth, not enough is changing to warrant such a claim.

Whilst certainly progress, it is not ever going to be enough simply consigning women to the second tier of corporate significance. In fact, the representation of women holding executive board positions has actually fallen; and just eight women are chief executives of FTSE 250 companies.

On the same day that Glencore was mildly improving a dismal record it emerged that only seven per cent of funds are run by women. This is simply not acceptable or even sound business sense.

As Bestinvest, the wealth management firm that commissioned the research, noted: This is particularly puzzling as female fund managers have consistently outperformed their male rivals over their careers.

The truth is that women still face huge obstacles to professional advancement. Few people can now genuinely believe that women are not qualified or committed. But there is what psychologists describe as 'unconscious bias' governing a behaviour which is proving a drag on equality.

This bias is part of our social identity. Acknowledged or not, we are all 'hard-wired' to respond positively to people similar to ourselves, and react against those deemed different or a threat. In the workplace, this unconscious bias can stop us from hiring the best person for a vacancy, damage client relationships, increase staff turnover and lead to legal claims.

I have routinely had to challenge decisions made about the careers of women which have been based on assumptions about their life choices, not evidence.

There is also a kind of professional apartheid, Women are allowed - by men - dominance of the so-called 'soft skills', such as human resources, marketing. But they are resisted, even criticised, when they demonstrate the sort of tough, ruthless, clear-minded thinking that men value in each other.

Two significant steps need to be taken to deal with unconscious bias. The first is the introduction of quotas to force boards, executive recruitment agencies and, regrettably, some women, to tackle the problem. This will create a level playing field. Critics say that quotas are demeaning and distorting. They are not and will jump-start change. There are plenty of able women to select, and quotas will encourage firms to bring on female talent.

The second step is training. Even the BBC recently sent senior journalists on a course to stamp out unconscious bias and encourage diversity.

We are not near dealing with unconscious bias, let alone welcoming anything historic. Until we level the playing field with temporary quotas women making it to boards is still going to make the news. We need it to pass almost unnoticed for the job to be done.

Read the original article from Huffington Post here: 

How Far Corporations Still Need To Go To Actually Reflect America's Diversity

by Maria Catoñón Moats
Originally Published: June 30th, 2014

As the chief diversity officer for PwC (formally Pricewaterhouse Coopers) , I spend a lot of time thinking about the kind of 21st-century workforce every great company needs. What keeps me up at night is whether the firm has done everything possible to create a welcoming culture, one in which people of all backgrounds feel at home--at least during the workday.
I know we’ve made progress. There are many more women partners at PwC today than a decade ago when I earned that title. In general, the corporate world looks different than it did when I took my first job at a financial services company in 1990. It was rigid. The few women I worked with didn’t dare to wear pants, and bright colors brought stares. I learned that the hard way when I showed up for my week of work in a bright purple suit my mother bought for me.
But there is still much more we need to do. For starters, business leaders need to dream big for their employees, especially for minorities, women, and those from low-income backgrounds who may have been the first in their family to go to college. Many of these young people, and even some who have been working for years, may not be able to dream big for themselves or see themselves living and working in a world beyond their current one.
Without a doubt, I became a partner at PwC in 2004 because others believed in me more than I believed in myself. I’m a first-generation Mexican-American immigrant from a poor family. My parents had a sixth-grade education. I just didn’t have the perspective to envision my life as it is today. While my parents dreamed for me, they didn’t dream big enough. It took a partner within the firm to help me understand the career opportunities that existed if I took a position in our national office in the New York area--one I would never have considered without his suggestion.


Companies also need to create accountability systems and incentives for diversity. PwC has a formal sponsorship program that requires every one of our 2,800 partners to sponsor three diverse employees--people of a different race, ethnicity, or gender. The partner’s role at PwC is to help the more junior employees develop professionally and serve as an advocate for them during evaluations, and as opportunities arise. This kind of structured program is absolutely necessary because people are busy and when they do occasionally find themselves able to take someone under their wing, it’s usually someone who looks like them.
We also have to examine the talent pipeline, and think about where companies are looking for new hires. Instead of only recruiting from the same prestigious colleges and universities each year, we need to think more broadly about that young adult like myself who went to a local college, the University of Texas at El Paso. I had the grades to go elsewhere, but staying close to home was affordable and culturally acceptable.
Let’s face it. The skills gap is a recognized problem in America, with many CEOs saying they are deeply concerned about their ability to fill jobs--particularly with talent from the U.S. By failing to recruit and retain diverse employees, including those from communities and cultures often overlooked, we’re leaving so much potential untapped. More than 30% of PwC's new hires this year were minorities. They’re incredibly talented professionals, but some of them might have been overlooked had it not been for our deliberate recruitment efforts. It’s important to remember that the more diversity we have, the greater the diversity of ideas we will have. And that’s what PwC's clients demand.


But we can’t put all of this on business leaders. Employees, even those just starting out, have work to do, too, if they want to get hired and make it to the executive suite. I encourage new hires to share some of their life stories and lessons with their colleagues. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about their personal experiences at work. But that’s a mistake. By letting your team know who you are, by being authentic, you create more meaningful relationships, and it’s those relationships that are essential to building a successful career in the long run. Of course skills matter. But relationships are equally important.
This became clear to me when I was working in PwC’s Dallas office early in my career and whispering in Spanish on the phone in my cubicle. One of my supervisors overheard, and told me to stop whispering and start touting my fluency in another language as a business asset. Since then, being myself--and being proud of it--has only helped me at work.
It’s also important for people coming up through their profession to look for diversity in their mentors. It’s easy to look for role models who look like you. But resist that. Actively seek out other perspectives instead of a mirror image of yourself. Someone who is different from you may be able to see the bigger picture and help you dream bigger because they don't see the same limits or boundaries that you do.
Though challenges remain, we need to celebrate how far PwC has come. In addition to my duties as chief diversity officer, I’m an audit partner at the firm, and I talk to corporate boards all the time. I recently sat down with a corporate board member to discuss ongoing accounting work for his company, and he very quickly switched gears and asked me whether I felt supported in my job and had strong mentors advocating for me. I was a little caught off guard but glad to report that I did, and I was thrilled with the question. It shows just how much the conversation has shifted. Hopefully the makeup of corporate America will follow.
--Maria Castañón Moats is the chief diversity officer at PwC.

Read the original article from Fast Company here: 

Women and business: the heart of economic value creation

by Jenny Purt and John Still
Originally Published: June 30th, 2014

Women are often overlooked in key economic development, yet they make vital contributions to the global economy. How can women be rewarded and recognised in big business? We ask for your contributions 

Hello and welcome to our week long 'slow blog' on women and business. Over the next five days, we'll focus on how women's impact on the economy can be amplified, what barriers they face in the global workforce and what interventions companies can make to empower women. We'll be pulling in your comments and pictures from social media, publishing short blogs from our readers and linking to interesting resources so do get involved! 
There is plenty of evidence that demonstrates the valuable contribution women make to business at the executive level. A 2012 report by Credit Suisse (pdf) revealed that share price performance is higher in those companies that have female board representation while research by consultancy, McKinsey, found that better stock prices are connected to gender diversity at board level. In a similar vein, Interbrand's Best Global Brands list 2013 showed large companies with a greater than average proportion of female board members outperform their peers with male-only boards.
But despite the quantity of research showing the benefits of gender diversity, how much genuine progress is being made to increase gender diversity in business?
Tides are slowly shifting - last week Glencore announced it has appointed Patrice Merrin on to its board, meaning that all FTSE 100 companies now have women directors at their top table - but there is still a long way to go in both recognising and rewarding women in big business.
One area where women seem to be making real strides towards equality at leadership level is in social enterprise. According to the State of Social Enterprise Survey 2013, women are nearly twice as likely to reach the top ranks in social enterprises as they are in big companies. But how can this be used as an entry point into mainstream business?
We'll be looking at the above and more throughout the week. To contribute to the blog, send an email to or tweet us @GuardianSustBiz.

Read the original article from The Guardian here: 

Wimbledon: WTA head’s fight for gender equality not over yet

by Jennifer Quinn
Originally Published: June 29th, 2014

Canadian Stacey Allaster, CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, says there is “so much more to be done” in women’s sport.

Stacey Allaster, chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association, oversaw the growth of the game in the crucial Asian market.
Stacey Allaster, chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association, oversaw the growth of the game in the crucial Asian market.
LONDON—It was just two weeks ago that Stacey Allaster stood at a podium at Western University’s convocation. She’d received an honorary doctorate, and in return, issued the graduates a challenge: Be the generation to eradicate gender bias and gender inequality.
Then Allaster, the chairman and chief executive officer of the WTA, flew to London and was confronted by what she had just been talking about. Andy Murray, the defending Wimbledon champion, had hired a woman — another former champion at the All England club, Frenchwoman Amélie Mauresmo — as his coach. Eyebrows were raised.
“It should be a non-event. He just hired a coach. And this is the coach he feels is right for him,” Allaster says. Wimbledon is a busy time for her, but she’s got a few minutes between meetings with brand experts and sponsors, and is taking the chance to have a cup of coffee. “Look at her credentials as a coach, not at her gender.”
Meeting Allaster was supposed to be a chance to catch up and check in with the former Tennis Canada vice-president and Rogers Cup tournament director. But the mini Mauresmo controversy, and Allaster’s speech at Western, has made equality in sports topical again — even though the topic is never far from her mind.
“There’s still so much more to be done, so much more to be done,” Allaster says. “You know.”
Allaster is an outspoken advocate for her athletes. She pushed for equal prize money for men and women at the four Grand Slam events; here at Wimbledon, for example, the men’s and women’s champions will each take home £1,760,000 (about $3.2 million Canadian.)
She has been the top woman in tennis since 2009, when she succeeded Larry Scott as the WTA’s chief executive. Though she had already been the organization’s president for three years, the job wasn’t handed to Allaster: the board conducted an international search and interviewed 21 possible candidates.
“One could interpret this as good governance or they don’t want me,” she said in her speech to the Western grads. “I had two choices: become deflated over the process or take on the challenge, play the interview game and win. And that I did — in a few weeks I will celebrate my fifth year as the WTA’s CEO.”
She has overseen the growth of the game in the crucial Asian market. In China, the WTA plays 10 annual events and has a genuine star in Li Na. Prize money on the women’s circuit is now almost $120 million; major deals have been signed with sponsors like Xerox and SAP. Her contract with the WTA has just been extended to 2017.
Whenever Allaster mentions Billie Jean King — who was spotted at the Wimbledon practice courts the other day, watching Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard — she inevitably refers to the tennis legend and WTA founder as her hero. Makes sense: as King said last summer in Toronto, Allaster sitting next to her, “My life is about equal opportunities for boys and girls, but women are so far behind, so it’s taken up more of my time.”
It’s fitting that as we talk about gender expectations for kids, Allaster’s 10-year-old is dropping texts to her mother. Though she is on the road about 160 days a year, this time her family — daughter Alexandra and 12-year-old son Jack, and husband John, will join her for the tennis in SW19.
She notes that there are different expectations for kids, even outside of sport — an outspoken little girl might be told she’s too aggressive, or bossy, Allaster notes — and is more than irritated when criticisms that the women’s game is inferior to the men’s are raised.
She sighs. “It’s just not factual. And I often hear, particularly from casual fans, that they enjoy watching women’s tennis more.”
A tennis fan, she says, is a tennis fan. And there is intrigue on the women’s tour: while the men’s majors have been dominated by the Big Four — Murray, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal — the women’s ranks are shifting.
Serena Williams, for example, was knocked out of the Wimbledon tournament by Alize Cornet, the 25th seed; Bouchard is the only player to have made the semifinals at both Grand Slams this year; established players like Maria Sharapova are being challenged by the likes of Simona Halep.
“These rising stars have been slowly making their mark, but they blew through the doors at the French Open,” Allaster said. “And not only did they beat some of our established stars, they had a sustained performance throughout the tournament — just fantastic matches.
“Maria Sharapova said that Halep match was the toughest Grand Slam final she has ever played.”
And television audiences responded. Eurosport, for example, reported that the Sharapova-Halep final at Roland Garros was the network’s most-watched women’s match in history, with nearly four million viewers.
Allaster’s next meeting looms, it’s time to go. She answers a last question, one she has no doubt been asked a million times: Is this your dream job?
“How I went from cleaning the courts at the Welland tennis club to being the special project co-ordinator at Tennis Canada, to being the tournament director at the Rogers Cup, and now chairman and CEO of the No. 1 professional sport for women — the sport that has given me everything, the organization that my hero, Billie Jean King, founded?” she says. “Every day I pinch myself.”

Read the original article from The Toronto Star here: