The 11th annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit kicked off today, with a promise of uniting a world-class group of leaders across sports, business, and entertainment for a conversation that will drive change and opportunity for women in sports.
Co-hosted by Sage Steele and Sarah Spain, the event features an all-star cast of ESPN talent, professional athletes, influencers, and executives. Behind the scenes, the team is nearly all women, in a variety of roles.
To learn more about the dynamic women involved in this incredible event, Front Row asked ESPN colleagues working on the Summit – from talent to marketing, to studio operations to design – to share how it feels to be a part of such a compelling and important event.
Isabelle Lopez, Rachel Siegal, and Jay Jay Nesheim contributed to this story.
Senior Vice President, ESPN Marketing, Laura Gentile
“It’s gratifying to see how much this Summit has grown and how it has continued to attract the most influential and interesting women in sports. It’s been a vital mission of espnW to connect women across the industry, build relationships, and drive business ideas across sports. We’ve done that and continue to look for smart ways to drive change and opportunity. The support has been extraordinary. As we had in May, for our first Virtual Summit, we have an all-female production and operations crew. In addition, women in front and behind the camera are driving this Summit to be a success. Never have so many women of ESPN helped make this espnW event happen and you’ll see many of them in action with us. For me, it has always been about envisioning the most unique, differentiated, and interesting experience for women in sports. There is no other event that showcases ESPN’s commitment to women than The espnW Summit, and it’s been an honor to craft this one-of-a-kind espnW experience with an extraordinary team.”
Sarah Spain, co-host, espnW: Women + Sports Summit
“Not long ago, I was talking to a fellow female talent here at the company about what a wonderfully supportive group of hosts, reporters, and writers we have at ESPN. I’m regularly telling people how great it is to work with women who have a willingness to lead and lift, help each other learn and thrive, and work together to create a really fun and friendly vibe on set and on shows. We’re all rejecting antiquated ideas about women being in competition with each other or a scarcity of opportunities. We realize that the more support we give each other, the more we all succeed and open up doors for the next generation.”
Meghan McCormick, Coordinating Technical Director
“It is incredible to see so many women in influential positions working together to execute this important event. While it’s common to find one or two women working on an event in the control room, it is very rare that you find a control room nearly completely staffed by women. This event nearly every control room and studio position is staffed by a woman which is such an amazing thing to be a part of. Not only do we get to work together to produce and create the seminar, but we get to do so in an environment that is supporting and uplifting the incredible women behind the scenes here at ESPN. While executing the event, we also have the privilege of hearing the stories and experiences of some of the most influential women in sports! It’s an environment and event that I’m proud to be a part of.”
Lisa Camarata, Associate Director
Kynna Randall, Art Director
“As a woman who has spent her entire career with ESPN, I find it incredibly inspiring to see all of the influential female voices being highlighted within the panel, as well as the support behind the scenes. I help oversee the creative that is used to highlight all of these influential speakers. We worked hand-in-hand with a number of groups to make sure that all graphics needs were met and were supporting their overall vision for this event. It is instrumental to our growth as a business to celebrate the commitment and hard work of each contributor for events like these. I am privileged to work alongside the accomplished women of our company to help make the Summit possible.”
Julie Foudy, espnW Writer, Soccer Commentator, Features Reporter and Host
“Bringing together so many influential women from different sports, industries and experiences is absolutely what makes this event so special. I love when we can intersect with incredible women from different worlds and connect it all through espnW in such a meaningful way. The women of ESPN are complete rockstars. This is a labor of love and passion so they put their heart and soul into making the event as smooth and entertaining as possible. Whether it be live or virtual. It takes lots of briefings, lots of research, more briefings, more zoom calls, more prep, and then BOOM, lots of magic.”
Elle Duncan, SportsCenter Anchor
“It happens on social media, rallying behind our sisters during big moments and unfortunate ones as well. But more importantly it’s the support you never see. The texts, calls, FaceTimes to show love, to check in, to collaborate on ideas. It’s truly a sisterhood that runs deep here and it’s so refreshing.”
Tania Eicoff, Lead Studio Operator
“I think it’s great that so many women are involved in this Summit, it makes it more special and speaks to the point of the event.”
Rachel Epstein, Senior Director, Emerging Properties & Brands, Marketing
“It is truly inspiring to see women across the company helping to make this virtual Summit come to life. There is so much going on right now, and the effort and passion every person is putting in to make this an exceptional experience is remarkable. So proud to be a part of the team! It starts with building a great agenda, which we generally create over many months. This year’s agenda is truly stacked — we’re super excited about our line-up across the two days. And then, across the whole Summit team, we’re thinking about every single detail – from the registration experience to every promotion and communication we share with our audience, smart, organic sponsor integrations, graphics for social, digital, and on-air. And, of course, all (too much to fully list!) that the Bristol production team does to bring the Summit to life so beautifully and seamlessly, ensuring every speaker is set up technically, and producing a fantastic live experience.”
Tellie Parker, Lead Media Operator
“This has been an experience I couldn’t have said would have been a part of my journey when I start college. I have been with the Disney family for 21 years. I originally started with a brief stint at Disney World in the summer of 1998 and worked at ESPN since 2004. It really has been a great opportunity that I was blessed with, which included a lot of growing pains but has made me a stronger person and professional. I am honored to have the opportunity to work at ESPN.”
Linsey Meeks, Lead Audio Communications Specialist
“Simply put, it is empowering to see and to be a part of the event. The upward diversity trend of more women becoming involved with television production is a promising movement, but there is always room for improvement.”
Sage Steele, co-host, espnW: Women + Sports Summit and SportsCenter Anchor
“The espnW Summit means so much to me for many reasons, but especially because of the unique opportunity to have this many women together, collaborating, and most importantly, supporting each other. Quite often, women are tough on each other, and this is our annual reminder to uplift and celebrate us!”
Tara Conklin, Event Coordinator
“The espnW Summit always looks to put the conversation around women in sports front and center, but I think my favorite part is that so many awesome women work together to produce it behind the camera. From the Talent department and our Event team to the in-studio crew and our Marketing team – we have a long roster of talented and committed ESPN women who keep the train moving. In my role of managing speaker communications and logistics, I often receive thank you notes addressed to the whole team after each Summit, with many speakers commenting on the many people who made their experience great or thanking us all for the ease of their logistics even though they know that many people were working diligently behind the scenes to make it happen for them. It takes a village, and each person’s role is so important in the success of each Summit.”
Claire Atkins, Studio Producer of the Summit
“The espnW Summit is a reminder that women are the backbone of ESPN, whether that’s in front of the camera or behind. It’s all hands on deck as we prepare for this virtual version of the espnW Summit. I get a chance to work with so many different departments here at ESPN to make sure we put on the best Summit we can during these difficult times.”