Opinion: ‘If you see it, you can be it.’ Kim Ng’s hiring as Marlins GM opens endless possibilities
After Kamala Harris’ barrier-breaking election as vice president last week, a good-natured warning made its way around social media.
“Make sure to wear shoes, ladies. There’s glass everywhere.”
Now, just a few days later, another ceiling has shattered. The Miami Marlins announced the hiring of Kim Ng as their general manager Friday, making her the first woman to hold that position in Major League Baseball.
It’s important to point out how woefully long overdue this is. Ng has been considered one of the brightest minds in baseball for decades now, and only the willfully ignorant will deny that a man with her 30-year resume – she was an executive for three teams that won World Series titles – would have been elevated well before this.
Kim Ng was hired as the general manager of the Marlins. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
Ng also isn’t the only one who’s had opportunities closed off to her simply because she’s a woman. The Marlins said they believe Ng is the first GM of any team in any of the major men’s professional sports leagues in North America, and it’s not for a lack of qualified candidates.
But it’s also important to celebrate how transformative a moment this is — and not simply for Ng.
“When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a Major League team,” she said in the team’s announcement. “But I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals.”
It’s often said that you cannot be what you do not see, and girls and young women who want to run a franchise or be an executive in sports now have a living, breathing enabler of their dreams. The sexists who have squelched women’s ambitions by saying, “Well, that’s just how it’s always been,” are now left to sputter in silence.
Just as the ranks of women coaching in the NBA has swelled in the six years since Becky Hammon was hired, so, too, are other women likely to quickly join Ng as the top executive of a team.
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Women like Kelly Krauskopf, who has been the Indiana Pacers’ assistant GM for almost two years now after 19 years running the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. Or Katie Blackburn, who, as executive vice president of the Cincinnati Bengals, knows how to finagle the NFL’s salary cap as well as anyone. Or Hayley Wickenheiser, who is already helping shape the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs as the team’s assistant director of player development.
All it takes is one woman to crack open the door, and the crowd behind her can come barging through.
This is not to say that we’ve achieved equality over this last week. As any woman in a male-dominated industry will tell you — and it goes double for women of color — we still have to justify our skills and qualifications when our male colleagues do not. We still have men making decisions based on the assumptions of their experience and privilege rather than reality.
But Ng showing what’s possible will have a lasting, and far-reaching, impact.
When Hammon was a candidate for the Milwaukee Bucks’ coaching job in 2018, Pau Gasol wrote an essay on her behalf for The Players’ Tribune. In it, he recalled his childhood in Spain, where his mother was a doctor and his father was a nurse.
That never struck him as odd, Gasol wrote, because it’s what he had always known. Never mind that only a few decades earlier, a female physician – or lawyer or CEO – would have been an anomaly. For him, and everyone who knew Gasol’s family, this was the norm.
Boys and young men growing up today will always know a world in which a woman was chosen to be the vice president, the second-highest office in the land. A world in which a woman is running an MLB team – a league that lags behind even the NFL in progressiveness.
A world in which women are increasingly judged by their capabilities rather than dismissed because of their gender.
There is more work to be done to achieve equality, both for women and people of color. And we'll get there. As soon as someone sweeps up all this glass.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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