Gamechangers who will push the boundaries

LISTICLE | 02/28/2023
Sarina Scharpf

They are strong, unafraid and go beyond boundaries - and not just in sporting terms: the influential women of the sports world. They are officials, NGO employees and founders, coaches, but also lawyers or presenters - and still in the minority. We looked for the most important women - and found them. Here are our top 30 female gamechangers who not only positively influence the sports world, but also shape and change it!


Gbemisola Abudu, Vice President NBA Africa & Country Head NBA Nigeria, 40 years

She is the youngest and also the only black woman to run a league office - Gbemisola Abudu. Her passion for the sport of basketball began at a young age, when she was virtually forced to watch games by her brother. Fortunately, because she quickly fell in love with the discipline, talent and focus of Koby Bryant. Driven by this enthusiasm, she pursues her passion for basketball to this day - and no longer just from the stands.


Nita Ambani, Owner Mumbai Indians & Founder Reliance Foundation, 59 years old

She is India's richest woman and was named the most influential business executive in Asia by Forbes magazine in 2016. But resting on her wealth is not her thing at all: Indian sports official Nita Dalal Mukesh Ambani is co-owner of the Mumbai Indians, a cricket team from the Indian Premier League. She also founded the country's largest philanthropic initiative in 2010, which promotes education, arts, culture and sports, among other things. She has been honored for her work in these areas at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, among other places.


Massy Arias, Fitness Influencer

With 2.7 million followers on Instagram, she is one of the big names in the fitness business. Massy Arias suffered from depression and talks about her way out of the crisis. The Dominican native started living a healthy lifestyle - with this she overcame her illness and physical limitations became a thing of the past. She is an example of how healthy eating and an active lifestyle can change lives mentally, physically and spiritually. She shares her knowledge charmingly and with power on various social media channels - with great success. She currently lives and trains in Los Angeles.


Shailee Basnet, mountaineer and leader Seven Summits Women, age 28

She inspires as a motivational speaker around the world, she makes her fans laugh as a comedian - and she takes fellow mountaineers to the very top. Namely, to the top of Mount Everest. Shailee Basnet is at the head of the first female group to climb the highest mountain on any continent. And as if that weren't enough, she's involved with survivors of human trafficking, helping them become trekking guides in the Himalayas.


Jana Bernhard, CEO S20 & FUSSBALL KANN MEHR gGmbH

Jana Bernhard is not only the successful managing director of S20, she also runs the impressive initiative FUSSBALL KANN MEHR gGmbH. Together with well-known faces from soccer and business such as Julia Jäkel, Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb and Katja Kraus, the non-profit network organization has been campaigning for gender equality and diversity in soccer.


Jeanie Buss, owner and president, Los Angeles Lakers, age 61

In 2020, Jeanie Buss achieved something outstanding: She became the first female owner to lead her baskeball team, the Los Angeles Lakers, to the NBA championship. She thus follows in the footsteps of her father Jerry Buss, who bought the Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Lakers for $67.5 million. The sports official is among the most influential and powerful women in sports and sports business. In 2018, she even ranked eighth on the Forbes list.


Stephanie Case, ultrarunner and founder Free to Run, age 40

She is the Ultra Runner Girl, she's a human rights lawyer, she's The North Face Explorer, she's a TEDx speaker, and she's the founder of Free to Run. "My ultra running and my work keep me sane and slightly crazy in equal measure, but I wouldn't have it any other way." A true all-around talent, she advocates for women and girls in conflict zones through Free to Run. Through adventure sports, the goal is to promote their physical, emotional and social well-being.


Mary Connor, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Soccer Without Borders

Mary Connor is co-founder and executive director of Soccer Without Borders, a global nonprofit that has used soccer as a vehicle for positive change in the lives of disadvantaged youth since 2007. For her impressive work at Soccer Without Borders, she has received numerous awards from the Wharton Business School, FIFA, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the US Soccer Foundation.


Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics, age 68

Mary Davis' journey with the Special Olympics began after college as a volunteer and coach. Since then, she has been a longtime leader in the Special Olympics movement, currently leading an international team of 250 employees and is passionate about creating a welcoming and inclusive society.


Marinel de Jesus, Founder, Equity Global Treks

For 15 years she was a civil rights lawyer until she decided to dedicate herself to her passion and took a different extreme: Marinel de Jesus leads a life as a mountain nomad. To give more attention to her passion for mountain sports, she founded Peak Explorations, now called Equity Global Treks, with the goal of promoting equality and inclusion of women and indigenous communities in the trekking industry. In 2019, Marinel also founded the nonprofit organization The Porter Voice Collective, advocating for human rights.


Majken Gilmartin, Co-Founder and CEO, Global Goals World Cup

Majken Gilmartin's goal is to "find all the ways to get girls and women involved in the world of sports and keep them there." For example, she was the organizer of the world's first soccer training and tournament for refugees in Denmark. As a role model and driver of change, she has made an impressive contribution to developing, promoting and strengthening women's participation in sport, for which she was awarded the IOC Women and Sport Award in 2016.


Sophie Goldschmidt, President and CEO, U.S. Ski & Snowboard

In 1991 she made her debut as a professional tennis player, but soon had to stop due to an injury. However, even if the tennis career did not turn out to be successful, Sophie's career continued. Currently, Sophie Goldschmidt is the head of the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding in the United States. Previously, she served on the advisory board of the World Surf League (WSL). In 2018, she was named to Forbes' list of "Most Powerful Women In International Sport."


Dame Katherine Grainger, former rower, Chair, UK Sport

From world-class rower to chairwoman of UK Sport. Katherine Grainger's career is one to be proud of. Back in the day, she won six world titles, four Olympic silver medals and one Olympic gold medal. Today, she takes her experience as an athlete and contributes to the success of UK Sport, the British high performance agency.


Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive, Women in Sport, age 55

A heroine of female empowerment! Since 2019, she has been fighting for women and girls at Women in Sport to give them the chance to experience all the joy of sport and draw strength from it. She believes that elemental skills are developed from sport, such as resilience, leadership and teamwork - which girls and women everywhere should have equal access to.


Nicole Lynn, Sports Agent and President of Football Operations for Klutch Sports Group.

Nicole Lynn is a U.S. sports agent and the first black woman to represent one of the National Football League's top three draft picks in defensive end Quinnen Williams. She is also the President of Football Operations for the US-based Klutch Sports Group, which represents NFL and NBA athletes. Nicole Lynn worked her way up from a poor background to become a financial analyst on Wall Street, later she was a lawyer, and now she plays at the top as a top agent for top athletes and entertainers.


Susanne Lyons, Chair, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, age 65

For 30 years, she conquered the American financial services industry as an executive of various companies. She then gave herself to philanthropic endeavors. Since January 2019, Susanne Lyons has been chair of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. In view of the war in Ukraine, she spoke in favor of, moreover, the participation of Russian and Belarusian Ahtlet*innen 2024 in Paris positively.


Cynthia Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks

In February 2018, Marshall became the first black female CEO in the history of the National Basketball Association. The Dallas Mavericks general manager is a true leader: "There is a difference between doing things right and doing the right things. Leaders do the right thing." She has set her sights high for 2023: "In 2023, no negativity, no pessimism and no bad things will be tolerated. Positivity, optimism and productivity are the things that will lead to an abundance of good and blessings. We are about to change some lives, save some children, and make the world a better place."


Sandra Douglass Morgan, attorney & president of the Las Vegas Raiders, age 44.

In 2022, history was made: Sandra Douglass Morgan became the first black woman to be president of an NFL club. And she did so shortly after head coach Jon Gruden was fired for racist and misogynistic comments, among other things. "I look forward to carrying this team's spirit and commitment to excellence on the field into all areas of this organization."


Johanna Mühlbeyer, Founder and Managing Director, Equalate

She is an entrepreneur, a speaker and, above all, a fierce campaigner for more diversity in sport. more diversity in sports. In 2021, Johanna Mühlbeyer founded her consulting firm with a focus on sports business. She supports companies and sports organizations in implementing a diversity strategy. "Because a lack of inclusion costs a lot of money," says the power woman. And in the Sponsors podcast (now Spobis podcast), the Equalate chief emphasizes that "diverse teams not only bring in higher revenues, but employees are happier and companies are less affected by turnover." This also saves costs.



Kimberly J. Ng, General Manager of the Miami Marlins

She has been one of the most influential women in sports for years, but she had to wait many years to get a position at the top of Major League Baseball. In November 2020, the time had finally come: Kimberly J. Ng became general manager of the Miami Marlins, making her the highest-ranking female baseball manager. And she really is a professional: she played softball herself and started her career in the 1990s with the Chicago White Sox.


Kiesha Nix, Vice President, Los Angeles Lakers

"It's so important that young people recognize themselves in me. I want them to not just think about becoming the next Kobe or LeBron." She is a role model par excellence: in 2021, Kiesha Nix became the first black woman vice president of the Lakers. Even Kiesha could hardly believe it: "I had to pinch myself," she said.


Muditambi "Ntambi" Elizabeth Ravele, Founder and Chairwoman, South African Women and Sports Foundation, 60 years.

Muditambi Ravele is the founder and chairperson of the South African Women and Sports Foundation. Since around 2008, with the establishment of SAWASF, Muditambi and her foundation have been the only effective voice for women in sports in South Africa. Muditambi also uses her foundation to lobby for changes to existing laws that will make it easier for women in sports.


Dawn Scott, senior director of performance, medical + innovation, Washington Spirits

At one time, she coached the US and UK national teams. Today, she remains a world-renowned physical performance expert and recognized that US female soccer players reported certain symptoms at similar times in their cycle. So she became an advocate of menstrual cycle mapping and sees it as the most important tool for player success.


Heike Ullrich, Secretary General of the DFB

Since April 2022, Heike Ullrich has been the first woman to hold this position at the German Football Association. Ullrich, who holds a degree in sports economics, joined the DFB in 1996 and began her career in the match operations department, where she focused on women's and girls' soccer. Promoting women in soccer is still important to her: At the World Cup in Qatar, she played a leading role in the DFB workshop "Future Leaders in Football," which was a Female Edition. A total of 20 young women from 14 different countries in the Arab world took part.


Luise Walther, neuro-trainer, health consultant, pain and performance coaching.

"It's time to radically rethink training! It's time for a holistic approach to physical performance. It's time for ease and enjoyment in training and movement." This is how Luise Walther describes the paradigm shift she wants to introduce with Neurocentered Training. In her own words, it is not about self-optimization, but about a balance of tension and relaxation of the nervous system. At the DFB, neurocentric training has already been on the agenda since 2019.


Hedvig Wessel, freestyle skier and founder Sister Summit

Hedvig Wessel lives freestyle skiing. With difficult tricks, outstanding jumps and unique acrobatics, she revolutionized big mountain freeride and took part in the 2014 Winter Olympics. To bring snowboarders and freeskiers together and promote femininity in outdoor sports, she created Sister Summit - and infects other enthusiasts with her passion at the competition and networking event.


Sarina Wiegman, coach of the England women's national soccer team

The 2017 World Coach of the Year is still coaching a women's team, but some people think she might take over a men's national team at some point. But until that happens, the former international will continue to shake up the women's soccer scene. In 2017, she led the Dutch national team to victory in the European Championship, and in her current role as coach of the English national team, she also won the European Championship in 2022. Record! This makes her the first female coach to win a European soccer championship with two different national teams. Her mission: to make female soccer even more attractive.


Claire Williams, Brand Ambassador, WAE Technologies

Claire Williams was Motorsport Manager and Deputy Team Principal of the Williams Formula 1 team and is now thrilling fans with a comeback. She is returning to WAE Technologies as a brand ambassador. There, she plans to help the company in its mission to decarbonize the heavy-duty transportation industry. A fighter for a sustainable future.


Jana Wosnitza, sports presenter, SPORT1

She is one of a few in male-dominated sports journalism - Jana Wosnitza. She joined SPORT1 in 2017 and was even up close and personal in the iconic "Ally Pally" when she hosted the World Darts Championship in London. "It's nice that I can now make a very good living from something I do out of passion. Because it doesn't feel like work at all. It's really a great privilege."


Kerstin Zerbe, Managing Director, BVB Merchandising GmbH

From BVB via Nike and Accenture back to BVB Merchandising GmbH. This time as Managing Director. She was influenced by yellow and black as a child, growing up near the Signal Iduna Park. Her career began back then with her training at BVB and after more than 10 years of experience in the sports business, she is the perfect choice for the management. Her plan is to "lift the BVB subsidiary's turnover towards 50 million euros".


Stefanie Mirlach, Head of Project Management Sports, Sky Deutschland GmbH

Stefanie Mirlach's path led her from the limelight behind the scenes. As a former professional footballer, she not only won the DFB Cup, but was also U20 World Champion. Today, she is responsible for the women's strategy at the sports broadcaster Sky and is also committed to the visibility and development of women's sports. At Sky, the topic is addressed in an exemplary manner, especially with the motto "Women on and behind the screen". A prime example of this is the programme #GameCHANGERINNEN.

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Sarina Scharpf