The Cold War propagated the most sophisticated military weaponry the world has ever known. Supersonic fighter aircraft were designed and manufactured with the idea of gaining both a tactical and strategic advantage over the enemy. Though millions of dollars were spent in the development of these advanced systems, careful consideration was put forth in protecting the pilots that flew these “rockets with wings”.
Human Factors Engineering surmised at the time that pilots were more apt to pay attention to a woman’s voice in times of extreme stress. Aircraft engineers suggested the use of “female voice warning indicators” in high tech cockpits. It was thought “that female voices were more authoritative to male pilots and crew members and were more likely to get their attention. A lot of this research was based on pilot experiences, particularly in combat situations, where the pilots were being guided by female air traffic controllers.”
Changes in aeronautical operations have seen more inclusion of women throughout air traffic control and in the cockpits as well, thus this idea has become a bit “watered down” through gender equity. But how about professional football front office management and NFL contract negotiations?
The physical nature of the sport itself leans toward male domination in most operational aspects. The female gender has really yet to break through the boundaries of playing the game at the levels required in high school, college and professional ranks. As a result, few spin off the field into coaching. Rare is even the male coaching figure that hasn’t participated at some level of organized football.
Women have made strides in the training and equipment rooms, as well as managerial responsibilities. But few seem to crack the line that exists between Football Operations and Business Management. In my sixteen years with the Denver Broncos, I ran across perhaps three women with full-time functional roles on the football side (even those were somewhat blurred). Amy Trask of the Oakland Raiders, Katie Blackburn of the Cincinnati Bengals and Ralph Wilson’s daughter, the late Linda Bogdan.
Women play an important role in the business operations of professional sports teams, but few find themselves at the top of the ladder and with any significant hands-on team management, whether coaching or personnel.
The sports agent world isn’t much better. Though MLB has Molly Fletcher and the NBA has made some strides with female representation, the NFL is still predominantly dominated by male football agents. Kristen Kuliga has steadily built a base clientele since 2001, but let’s face it – men rule the sports agent firms in NFL contract negotiations.
It’s time to introduce NFL teams to “female voice warning indicators”. I was in the midst of doing just that before leaving the Denver Broncos in 2008. Meghan Zobeck had worked with the club since checking players into Training Camp when she was fifteen. After graduating from the University of Colorado, Meg came back to the Broncos through the Operations Department. Her advancement quickly hit a ceiling and I recommended she think about Salary Cap Management and contract negotiations if she wanted to advance her NFL career.
Meg’s the first female representative of the club that I know who has successfully negotiated an NFL rookie contract and routinely handles the day to day aspects of Salary Cap Management alongside the Director of Football Administration. Given enough experience and opportunity, what NFL sports agent wouldn’t sit up and pay attention to an authoritative female negotiator? If the U.S. Air Force can trust a multi-million dollar aircraft to a woman’s voice, then so can an NFL team with multi-million dollar contract negotiations. Why not?