Women in Minor League Baseball are making deeper connections with each other through the league’s new Women in Baseball LIFT Mentorship Program.
MiLB launched LIFT, or Leaders Inspiring Future Talent, late last year to help enhance women’s experiences in the professional setting, retain talent and increase advancement into senior roles, said Belicia Montgomery, MiLB manager of data and business processes. The 34 mentor-mentee pairs, or LIFTers and LIFTees, had their first group calls this month.
The program was created by the MiLB Women in Baseball Leadership Committee as there has long been demand for more opportunities for women in the industry to connect outside of the annual Women in Baseball Leadership Event at the Winter Baseball Meetings and Coffee & Connections at the MiLB Innovators Summit.
“We continually evolve the programming at existing events, but with the limited time slots it’s become more and more difficult to offer additional on-site opportunities,” Montgomery said. “We’re always brainstorming new concepts to provide ways to engage more than just once or twice a year.”
The committee convened prior to the 2018 season and developed the LIFT Mentorship Program with the goal of launching it in 2019.
Applications were sent out in September and nearly 200 women applied, and Montgomery and MiLB Events & Partnership Coordinator Jessica Nori spent nearly a month matching the inaugural 34 pairs. The application was brief, but with questions that could elicit detailed answers, Montgomery said, which helped pair those with compatible career goals, objectives and interests.
“The first year, we started with a conservative number of pairs to ensure we had all the resources needed to provide adequate support to the participants,” she said. “We’re looking to grow the program each year.”
Montgomery said the future iterations of the LIFT Mentorship Program will likely be different as it evolves with experience. The program might be expanded in future years to include a peer-to-peer or executive mentoring aspect, Montgomery said. Any changes or additions to the program would likely occur three or more years in the future, as the next couple of years will be focused on expanding the base program.
The most important part for the inaugural group is that they take advantage and buy into the program since they applied and sought it out, Montgomery said. One of the program’s LIFTers is Reno Aces General Manager Emily Jaenson, who said it’s important for every industry to focus on developing the next generation of executives.
With that in mind, Jaenson said the league’s employees are lucky with MiLB’s support and programming of LIFT.
“Women are the minority population in Minor League Baseball, so this program focuses specifically on developing female employees with a goal to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions,” Jaenson said.
The program itself is important as it provides women associated with MiLB’s 160 teams across the United States the ability to connect with others, which can be difficult at times in sports.
“We have some clubs that are so small that there is only one woman in the front office, so they don’t have a person to talk to about the unique challenges to them,” Montgomery said. “It can sometimes be intimidating to meet and network with others, so we want to provide a platform to make it easier.”
She also said there’s an aspiration that the program can help spur similar initiatives in other leagues and organizations.
“Hopefully it can be magnified and all women in the sports industry can connect with each other,” Montgomery said. “But we are all about taking baby steps and developing the program in a timeframe that makes sense for everyone involved.’”