A New York City-based nonprofit has launched a chapter in Indianapolis with the goal of supporting women in the sports and events industry. Women in Sports and Events, or WISE, hosted its first event Monday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse and has plans for more to provide young women with mentors to help them accelerate their careers.
“After COVID hit our industry hard, many of us talked about what it could look like to convene women together, learn from each other, and take that back to our organizations to make us a better, stronger community for sports and events,” WISE Indianapolis Board Chair Melissa Thompson said.
Thompson, who also serves as vice president of bids and external affairs for the Indiana Sports Corp, discussed the need for an Indy chapter with Inside INdiana Business.
“The ecosystem of sports in this city is is so huge and such an integral part of what we do and how we operate here,” Thompson said. “And there are so many women who are involved in those organizations and working for them. And we really felt like it was necessary to have a organization like this, where women who had been in the industry for years could mentor younger women who are coming up and really teach them the things that they had learned and how to advance in their careers.”
WISE was founded in 1993 and now has 25 chapters throughout North America.
Demand for such an organization in Indianapolis was strong, Thompson said, pointing to an initial “interest event” in September, which had more than 150 attendees.
WISE Indianapolis held its first event, a Speed Mentoring Roundtable, on Monday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The event featured more than a dozen women from the industry set to be mentors meeting with over 50 young women looking for a mentor relationship.
Thompson said the organization is kicking off with over 120 members.
“There are a lot of women in sports, and I think especially in Indianapolis from the Pacers, the Colts to racing. I mean, you’d be shocked at how many women work in the racing industry here in Indianapolis,” said Thompson. “And so it’s important to continue to elevate those stories and to tell the stories of what women are doing, and effecting change in those organizations. And I think this just gives us a really great avenue to do that.”
The organization said its first founding members include Pacers Sports & Entertainment, the Indianapolis Colts, Indianapolis Indians, Indiana Sports Corp, Penske Entertainment and Markey’s.
Looking forward, WISE Indianapolis plans to host programming focused around sporting events taking place throughout the year and into 2024, such as the 2024 U.S. Olympic swimming trials and 2024 NBA All-Star Game.
“We’ll do some panels. We’ll do some networking events, ” she said. “There’s so many women across all of these sports that we have here in town, but a lot of them don’t know each other, and so [we’re] just giving all those women an opportunity to interact and network and learn from each other and get an opportunity to maybe advance their career in a way that they are not expecting at this point.”
Thompson said the long-term goal of the organization is to develop mentor relationships and pair the seasoned, experienced women in the industry with young women who are at the beginning of their careers.
WISE Indianapolis says it offers corporate and individual memberships, as well as student memberships at a discounted rate. You can learn more about the organization by clicking here.