Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order to establish a first-of-its-kind task force that aims to increase opportunities for women and girls in sports.
The Task Force on Women in Sports will tap local and national leaders to help create strategies and programs to achieve that goal, according to a Monday news release from the governor’s office.
The 14-member task force is chaired by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who is the former CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). The New York City-based nonprofit is focused on empowering the sports community to “eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations,” according to its website.
“This is a chance for Michigan to become a national model for advancing opportunities for all women to lead in every arena,” Benson said in the release. “Sports is a great equalizer in our society, and research shows that women who play sports are more likely to seek and fill leadership positions in other sectors.”
Female athletes receive less attention and investment than their male counterparts, even after the passage of federal civil rights law Title IX, the release said.
“Young girls and women who are participating in sports in Michigan deserve the same opportunities as their male counterparts,” Whitmer said in the release. “These possibilities extend well beyond time on the playing field.”
The task force is charged with examining “systematic problems” with equality in sports and developing recommendations to the governor on legislation, policies, investments and programs to address them.
Members of the task force are:
- Penny Allen-Cook, commissioner of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, who has worked for more than 30 years as a coach and administrator at the youth, high school and collegiate levels
- Ketra Armstrong, an associate dean, professor of sport management and faculty athletics representative at the University of Michigan. She is a former collegiate student-athlete, coach and administrator and served as president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport.
- Kathy Beauregard, who has served as director of intercollegiate athletics at Western Michigan University for 22 years and is the longest-serving director in the country serving the same university. She is one of nine women athletic directors out of 136 Division I Football Playing Institutions.
- Keri Becker, who has spent her entire professional career in college athletics. She has been director of athletics at Grand Valley State University since 2016.
- Lorin Cartwright, retired athletic director and athletic trainer from Pioneer High School. She was first president of the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers’ Association and is author of eight textbooks.
- Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of Michigan Women Forward, a statewide origination that focuses on increasing access to capital for women, creating the next generation of young women leaders and creating measurable equity for women. Cassin is also founder and general partner of the Belle Impact Fund, Michigan’s first venture fund made up of 57 women investors who invest solely in women-owned businesses.
- Judi Brown Clarke, diversity director for the BEACON Center at Michigan State University.
- Cali Crawford, who on July 1 will be appointed director of athletics at Schoolcraft College after serving seven years as assistant director. In her role as director, Crawford handles day-to-day operations of student athlete-recruitment and retention, overall management of athletics and compliance. She also serves as at-large Board of Regent for the Nation Junior College Athletic Association.
- Joanne Gerstner, an award-winning author and multiplatform sports journalist for outlets such as The Detroit News, USA Today, ESPN and The New York Times. She is the sports journalist in residence at the School of Journalism at Michigan State University.
- Jennifer Granger, an advocate for nonprofit and charitable causes, having served her communities for over 12 years as a volunteer, fundraiser and voice for families and children most in need. As a mother of two girls with the unique perspective of supporting the activities of professional sports teams in New York, California and Michigan, she is prepared to harness her experience for female athletes to expand leadership pathways for women in sports.
- Mike Guswiler, who leads the West Michigan Sports Commission, a nonprofit that serves to promote health and wellness through sports and acts as an economic engine in the region by generating sport tourism. He also serves on the West Michigan Miracle League Board providing opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in sport and is a member of Pure Michigan Sports, a statewide destination marketing group made up of 14 Michigan cities.
- Carol Hutchins, who has spent 35 years as head coach for softball at the University of Michigan and is the winningest coach in National Collegiate Athletic Association history.
- Sam Mullet, who was a three-sport athlete while attending high school at Bear Lake and now serves as the offensive coordinator for the varsity football team.
- Erika Swilley, senior director of community and social responsibility for the Detroit Pistons. Previously, she spent time in community relations for the Chicago Sky/Sky Cares Foundation and Golden State Warriors.