U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program Sportswomen Level the Playing Field

November 22, 2019

In its eighth year this fall, another generation of dynamic sportswomen from 14 countries took part in the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ flagship initiative to advance the rights and participation of women and girls in sports domestically and abroad.

The delegates spent one month working with female senior executive mentors in the U.S. sports sector, who shared valuable personal, business, entrepreneurial, and strategic management insights.  In turn, the American mentors benefited from the exchange by gaining new cultural perspectives and an expanded domestic and global network.  The mentors also worked side-by-side with the participants to develop action plans they plan to implement in their home countries.

Rabaa H. Al Hajeri, managing partner at Eighty Percent, was mentored by Liz Gray and team at the Creative Artists Agency.  She developed an action plan focused on advocating for gender equality and promoting the importance of women’s participation in sports in Kuwait.  As Co-founder of this socially driven sports management company, Rabaa's plan seeks to revamp the organization with the goal of making it more impactful.  She has developed a number of solutions to meet challenges that women and girls face in the male dominated realm of sports, such as creating events geared toward addressing obesity concerns, diversifying the industry by developing a women's football tournament, and promoting a healthy lifestyle through adventure experiences.    While presenting her plan to a room full of delegates and supporters, Rabaa expressed that “Through sports you can become a better version of yourself.”  When women are empowered, they empower their families and communities.   

Abeer Essawy, co-founder of the Egyptian Sports Network (ESN), the first non-football sports network in the country, developed an action plan to increase the representation of women in sport-based careers. She was mentored by Val Ackerman and her team at BIG EAST. When Abeer did not receive the equal amount of money as her male counterparts after winning a sports competition, she devoted her time to leveling the playing field for women in sports. During her action plan presentation she mentioned that “Inclusion is important for unity.”  She is also a proponent of storytelling and believes that women can benefit greatly from sharing experiences about challenges they face in the field.  

Whether blazing trails for women to run in Peru or using kick-boxing in India, through their action plans, the sportswomen of GSMP have positively and directly impacted over 250,000 people in every corner of the world, supporting the State Department’s ongoing efforts to empower women and girls around the world.   

With the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society as the cooperative partner, the GSMP has proven to be a successful government, private sector, and academic partnership.  The Program supports the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ broader “Step In, Dream Big” initiative to promote participation in sports by young women. Follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag #StepinDreamBig and #EmpowerWomen.