Before last week, it had probably been years since I’d heard Kim Ng’s name.
I’d thought about her quite a bit during those years, wondering if moving the Dodgers’ front office to work for Joe Torre at MLB in 2011 had stunted her chances of ever getting that coveted GM position women in baseball so wanted for her.
I’d first heard about Ng back in 2000 or so, while she was working as assistant GM for the Yankees, when someone mentioned to me that she’d likely be the first woman GM in Major League Baseball. In the years that followed, her name was always in the mix for open GM jobs, even though Ng admitted in an interview last week that many of the GM roles she interviewed for were likely just for show.
But then, as GMs got younger and less-experienced, Ng’s name seemed to disappear from the radar. The guys getting GM jobs were suddenly frat bros fresh from Wall Street or other non-baseball backgrounds. They were Bill James devotees who dealt strictly in numbers and databases. You never heard Kim Ng mentioned anymore.
Even as Ng triumphantly smashed through the biggest glass ceiling in sports last week, at the age of 52, I wondered what those nine years working for Torre had felt like for her. I imagine they felt a lot like life does for so many women working in sports. As reporters who hadn’t mentioned her name since before Twitter existed rush to congratulate Ng on social media, I was reminded of how much support women in sports get when they reach the mountaintop, and how little they receive on the way up.
Right now, there are women working in sports and sports media at every level: behind the cameras, in front of them, in front offices, in coaching, in officiating. There are women hosting shows, women writing columns, women helping you pick your fantasy team, women transcribing quotes from the locker room. Most of them feel alone a lot of the time. It’s difficult, you see, to walk into a room and be the only woman, no matter how much confidence you have in yourself and your abilities.
Women in sports, for the most part, go roundly ignored until they get into a position where you can’t ignore them. When that happens, everyone comes running to offer congratulations and talk about how great they are and how well-deserved the new gig is. But that’s not what women in sports need from you and it’s not when women in sports need to hear from you.
Women need to hear how great they are and how well-deserved praise is on the days when we’ve been passed over for a role they’re more than qualified for than the man who ultimately winds up getting it. They need to hear from you on the days when the online harassment is just too much, but their job demands they use social media. They need it on the days when the sexual harassment and micro-agressions from co-workers make them contemplate going into another line of work for the 47th time that week. They need to hear it when they feel like no matter how hard they work, they never get anywhere in the industry.
A 2018 study of Beltway Twitter showed that men in journalism retweet and share their female colleagues’ work far less than they did other men’s. In fact, male journalists retweeted other men at three times the rate they retweeted women. This study has come up often among women who work in media, who, in my experience, overwhelmingly feel that the men they work with largely ignore them online; not promoting their work the same way they promote their buddies.
If there are women you truly admire in sports, share their work. Help promote them. Scream their names from sea to shining sea. Insist their outlets utilize them more. Force the powers that be to consider their names for open positions. Advocate for them. I can think of a dozen men in sports, off the top of my head, that have absolutely rabid Twitter followers who are always pushing them forward. I can think of one or two women who maybe have the same kind of following. And that’s a stretch.
You see, while congratulating Kim Ng is great, it never should have taken her 20 years to get to the pinnacle of the front office. She should have been there years ago. Her name never should have fallen out of contention for open GM jobs. We shouldn’t have gone nine years without hearing her name.
Kim Ng, like so many other women in sports, needs your support on the way up.