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Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program Enters National Collaborative to Examine Gender Inequality in Sports

By Keith Morelli

Janelle Wells

TAMPA (September 30, 2020) -- The USF Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program is collaborating with sports and entertainment-marketing agency Wasserman’s think tank, The Collective, in an ambitious effort to address gender parity and diversity.

Harnessing data and thought leadership from professors and students alike, the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program and The Collective Think Tank will research the inequities of women in sports to garner insights that inform action. The group will publish ongoing thought leadership across a multitude of topics that affect women in sports to raise awareness of issues among fans, consumers and participants.

The Collective Think Tank, the first of its kind, will share data, insights and information to promote more opportunities for women to succeed in sports, according to an announcement of the collaboration, released earlier this month.

As a collaborator in the partnership, the USF Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program, which recently ranked No. 5 in the United States and No. 6 in the world, will engage student-led research projects around the lived experiences of women and other underrepresented groups studying or entering the sport landscape, she said.

As a woman interested in analytics, graduate student Aomori Allen will represent the USF Muma College of Business as one of the Collective Think Tank Student Research Fellows, Wells said.

Allen said she is excited to embrace the opportunity because “it will allow me to gain meaningful experience and expand my professional network as I prepare to graduate in May.”

From student-led research projects to experiential-learning class projects and job opportunities, Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program graduate research assistant Kevin Alwell said he is “incredibly honored to partner with Wasserman and several other industry experts and scholars to help make a positive change to the industry through this first of its kind initiative.”

Specifically, The Collective is a culmination of partnerships between universities and researchers, as well as brands, properties and media companies to educate and create strategies for industry-changing activations, campaigns and platforms.

“Being at the forefront of culture and civic change, sport is one of the most powerful, popular and unifying social institutions in the world; yet, the promise of sport remains unfulfilled for girls and women,” said Janelle Wells, associate professor of marketing in the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program. “So today, I am excited to collaborate with my esteemed colleagues, thought leaders and aspiring students to help change this narrative for and with the next generation.

“Students of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” she said. “It is important for us to create a culture of learning that will inspire and empower future generations. Through our collective effort, students, practitioners and scholars have a unique opportunity to engage in an iterative, design-based research process where we can learn from and with one another.”

The Collective Think Tank launch statement revealed plans for 10 research projects “focused on the many facets of a woman’s fandom (consumption, purchasing power, effects of social justice) and how women who work in the business of sport are represented.”

Wells’ lived experience as a collegiate student-athlete and coach-turned-scholar sparked her community-engaged research centered on talent development empowering and promoting the next generation, so she understands this: “Students of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” she said.

“It is important for us to create a culture of learning that will inspire and empower future generations,” she said, “Through our collective effort, students, practitioners and scholars have a unique opportunity to engage in an iterative, design-based research process where we can learn from and with one another.”

Leading The Collective Think Tank are Thayer Lavielle, executive vice president of The Collective, and Shelley Pisarra, executive vice president of Wasserman Global Insights and Strategies.

“The opportunity to partner with some of the world’s leading experts in the field is a privilege,” Lavielle said. “To provide data and insights, coupled with the participation of brands, properties and media partners who can provide actionable solutions to these insights, is exciting beyond belief. Ultimately, with this group, we aim to better the ecosystem for the many women who participate therein.”

Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program Director Michelle Harrolle said she values the role of partnerships providing opportunities for faculty and students.

“It is important,” she said, “to build more bridges between scholarship and practice.”