San Francisco

Trail-Blazing Women in Sports Lead Town Hall on Gender Equity at SJSU

A trail-blazing assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers was among a group leading a discussion on gender equality and women's rights in sports Wednesday morning at San Jose State University.

Katie Sowers, only the second full-time female coach in the NFL and the league's first openly gay coach, joined a dozen other participants in a program titled "Words to Action." The group included a who's who of accomplished women, along with noted sports psychologist Dr. Harry Edwards, all with special stories and journeys.

"So I grew up in a small town," Sowers said. "Two stoplights, about 3,000 people in my town. I loved football when I was really little."

Since joining the 49ers in June of last year, Wednesday marked the first time Sowers spoke publicly of her journey to football's highest rank. She's currently an offensive assistant with San Francisco. For her, the town hall was about de-bunking gender myths.

"I think the more that we can continue to change that mindset, we're allowing people to find their passion," she said. "We're allowing women and men to pursue something that's bigger than themselves and actually, ultimately makes them happy."

Karen Brodkin helped launch two sports networks and now brokers deals for tennis superstar Serena Williams. She comes at gender equity from a business perspective.

"Until there are more women and people of color at the top of those companies, there will only be incremental change," said Brodkin, an executive vice president at Endeavor, a sports and entertainment agency.

Ruthie Bolton is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But she also has suffered from abuse and is now an advocate in the fight against domestic violence.

"Stories inspire people. Our stories are there to help people," said Bolton, a two-time Olympic gold medalist. "My story is of triumph and resilience, and like that story helps someone else, someone's else's story helps me. So it's about letting the young people know, 'You know what, don't quit.' We're in the process. There's so much out there. Greatness awaits you if you just persevere and hold on."

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