Women tackle new opportunities in the NFL

The National Football League (NFL) will open its 2021 season in September with a record 12 women working as coaches.

The increase reflects the NFL’s effort to provide greater opportunity for women in a sport played predominantly by men. The NFL created the Women’s Careers in Football Forum in 2017, which recruits women for full-time jobs in the sport.

One hundred women have obtained NFL jobs since the program began and dozens more have been hired in football jobs at the high school or collegiate level, according to recent media reports. Forty-four participants in the Women’s Careers in Football Forum in 2021 landed jobs at the professional or collegiate level.

Women now fill 38% of jobs in the NFL’s management office and two women work as league referees.

“We have females at almost every level, except for that top head coach and [general manager] spot, which will come soon,” Sam Rapoport, the NFL’s senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion, told CNBC.

Female American football coach talks to two players in uniforms (© Tony Avelar/AP Images)
San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers talks with free safety D.J. Reed and wide receiver Richie James before an NFL game in 2019. (© Tony Avelar/AP Images)

Kim Ng became Major League Baseball’s first female general manager in November 2020. In assuming the Miami Marlins’ top job, Ng also became the highest-ranking Asian American in baseball history.

The defending-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the NFL’s only team with two female coaches, including Maral Javadifar, a physical therapist and assistant strength and conditioning coach.

“Her qualifications were off the charts as far as what we were looking for in our sports science program,” Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians said in an NFL video. “She has a sports background. She’s a basketball player. She knows what a locker room’s all about.”