Skip to main content
ABC News
It Only Takes Two Women Coaches For The NFL To Tie For No. 1 On Gender Diversity

Six months ago, I took a look at the (lack of) female representation in coaching and front offices in major sports, just after Jen Welter became the first female assistant coaching intern in the NFL. On Wednesday, the Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith as the league’s first full-time female coach (specifically, as an assistant special teams quality control coach).

That gives the NFL a tie with the NBA for the best record in U.S. pro sports on hiring women to coach male athletes. The NBA has two female assistant coaches, and no female head coaches. MLB and MLS have no women coaches at any level.

Off of the field, only modest progress in hiring women to the major pro leagues was made last year. According to the 2015 report from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the NFL, MLS and the WNBA show a modest uptick in the percentage of female vice presidents across the leagues. But only the WNBA has expanded its share of female CEOs.

Female leadership in pro sports
WNBA 28% 26% 36%
NBA 7 20 5
MLB 0 17 16
NFL 0 23
MLS 0 17 0

Tides does not calculate majority owner percentages for the NFL

Source: Tides

Tides lists 13 women who were either principal owners or held significant ownership stakes in NFL franchises in 2015, an increase over the nine owners counted in 2014. The report does not provide data on the overall share of NFL owners who are female.

CORRECTION (Jan. 21, 3:40 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the number of female assistant coaches hired by the NBA. The basketball association has two female assistant coaches, not one. That means that the NFL is tied with the NBA for the best record in pro sports on hiring women to coach male athletes; it does not have the best record.

Leah Libresco is a former news writer for FiveThirtyEight.