Female Sport Professionals Working Within Male-Dominated Sports


Day One: June 11, 2018

1:30- 2:30 pm



Keynote Speaker: Katie Sowers

Seasonal Offensive Assistant Coach for the San Francisco 49ers


Session Panelists:


Dr. Shanyn Lancaster, Head Team Physician, Sun Devil Athletics; Arizona State University Health Services – Chief of Sports Medicine


Michelle Pujals, Vice President & Assistant General Counsel, National Basketball Association (NBA)




Carla Wilson, Director of Athletics, University of Missouri – Kansas City Athletics


Session Description:

Not unlike other industry vocations, female sport professionals have often faced immense scrutiny when striving to carve out a career in male-dominated sports. The “first female” coaches, referees, managers, and administrators hired into male-focused sport operations (i.e. NFL, NBA) are often the focus of media attention when filling non-traditional roles within these organizations. This presentation will begin with a brief keynote address from Katie Sowers who is the second woman to accept a full-time coaching job in NFL history.  Following the presentation, Katie will be joined by a panel of other female speakers who have assumed similar career paths in male-dominated sports to share their journey and insights with attendees.


By the end of the presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • Relate the career challenges and outcomes of the panelists to the current state of hiring practices and opportunities for women in sports.
  • Identify areas for growth, advancement and leadership for female professionals working within male-dominated sports leagues.
  • Justify the value of female professionals working in male-dominated sports.


Speaker Bios:



Katie Sowers enters her second season in the NFL and first with the 49ers as a seasonal offensive assistant. She originally joined San Francisco in June of 2017 as part of the 49ers 2017 Bill Walsh Diversity Fellowship, where she worked with the team’s wide receivers.

In 2016, Sowers spent the offseason/training camp in the same capacity with the Atlanta Falcons. With the Falcons, she worked closely with Atlanta assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Raheem Morris in organizing, conducting and concluding practice drills. Following her time on the field as a coach, she spent nine months as a scouting intern with the Falcons.

Sowers joined Atlanta after spending two years (2014-16) as the athletic director of the City of Kansas City. A former member of the 2013 United States Women’s National Football Team and a player herself in the WFA (women’s football alliance) for eight years, Sowers earned her master’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in pedagogy from the University of Central Missouri in 2012.




Shanyn Lancaster, MD – see full bio under Prescription Opioids in Sports: Use, Misuse, and Abuse.


Michelle Pujals, JD

Ms. Pujals joined the NBA Legal Department in 1995, and she is currently Vice President & Assistant General Counsel.  She concentrates in the areas of litigation and arbitration, the Anti-Drug Program, security, player discipline, compliance, and game operations.  Ms. Pujals received a B.S. (summa cum laude) in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication, and her J.D. (magna cum laude) from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was a member of the Order of the Coif.  At Georgetown, she was the Senior Articles Editor of the American Criminal Law Review.  After graduation, Ms. Pujals was a litigation associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman in New York City.  She is admitted to the state bars of New York and New Jersey.


Carla Wilson, Director of Athletics

A 29 year employee of UMKC, Wilson took over as Director of Athletics for the Intercollegiate Athletics Division I program on December 2, 2013.  The first ever female and minority leader of intercollegiate athletics at the University, the 2016-17 year completes Wilson’s fourth academic year as Athletics Director at her alma mater.

In the 2016-17 year, the Roos garnered five Western Athletics Conference (WAC) Championships (Men’s Cross Country, Women’s Tennis, Men’s Tennis, Women’s Outdoor Track & Field, Men’s Outdoor Track and Field), five 2nd place finishes, and two 3rd place finishes.  An overall 2nd place finish in the WAC Commissioners Cup standings marks the highest finish for the program during the Division I era.

Academically, the Roos posted a program high cumulative grade point average of 3.34 for the 2016-17 academic year.  15 of 16 sports had a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater, with Women’s Cross Country leading the way with a 3.55.  A total of 122 student-athletes earned All-WAC academic honors, while 92 scholar athletes boasted a 3.5 or higher cumulative gpa.  The year culminated with 52 graduates, a 87% graduation success rate and an APR of 982.

Wilson is currently serving on the prestigious NCAA Division I Council through 2018, and is eligible for an additional four year term. The newly formed Division I Council is a high-level group, with representatives from each conference, responsible for the day-to-day decision-making for Division I and replaces the Leadership and Legislative Councils in the previous structure.  She also serves on the Student Athlete Experience Committee (SAEC), a subcommittee of the DI Council.  The SAEC has oversight responsibility of nonacademic operating bylaws that impact the overall student-athlete intercollegiate experience. The Student-Athlete Experience Committee will study issues and make policy or legislative recommendations in the areas of amateurism, recruiting, financial aid, and awards and benefits.  No stranger to NCAA committees, she has also served on the NCAA Division I Softball Committee (2010-14), Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Committee (2004-2007) and the NCAA Region V Post Graduate Scholarship Committee (1999-2017).

In 2015, Wilson was named one of the “Top 25 Women in Higher Education” by Diverse:Issues in Higher Education, and in 2012, Women Leaders in College Sports (formerly NACWAA) named Wilson the Division I Administrator of the Year.

Wilson is also an active member of Women Leaders in College Sports, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the DI-AAA Athletics Directors Association, and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association, where she chairs the Education and Professional Development Committee. For 2017-18, Wilson was elected as 3rd Vice President of DI-AAA ADA and to the Executive Committee for MOAA.  A lifetime member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., she serves on various community boards, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City Sports Lab Advisory Board, WIN for KC and the Chancellor’s Advisory Board for the UMKC Women’s Center.

Wilson and her husband Kevin, who reside in Olathe, KS, have four adult children, Shae, Tristan, Kevin Jr., and Kaylan.