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A Deep Dive into Women's Sports with Danette Leighton, CEO Women Sports Foundation

VEST Her Podcast Episode about Women in Sports
VEST Her Podcast Episode: Women in Sports

Imagine a world where women's sports stand shoulder to shoulder with men's, where the prowess and athleticism of female athletes are celebrated instead of their appearance. This utopia is not so far-fetched if we rally behind the mission of the Women's Sports Foundation. We sat down for an eye-opening conversation with Danette, dissecting the highs and lows of women in sports, the pressing need for equal investment, and the gender-specific hurdles that still plague the industry.

We didn't merely stop at debating the challenges; we took a profound look at how we can overturn societal norms that suppress women athletes. From challenging expectations and norms to redefining the narrative around women in sports. The conversation also steered towards the invaluable role sports play in fostering a sense of community and providing life lessons for girls and women - two crucial aspects that underline the importance of sports in their overall development.

Beyond the playing field, the discussion moved into the challenges parents face in a youth sports system that favors certain socioeconomic backgrounds. We shared some practical advice when encouraging young women to consider careers in the sports industry. We also examined the scarcity of women in C-Suite sports roles and the skills needed for growth opportunities. So, if you're ready to explore the changing landscape of sports distribution, understand the importance of equal pay, and align with the long-term objectives of the Women's Sports Foundation, this conversation is for you.

Bios and show notes for Danette and Erika can be found below.

Available on Spotify, Apple and Google Podcast.

This episode is made possible thanks to our venture arm, VEST Her Ventures, a venture capital firm investing in women led companies serving the needs of women, working families and inclusive employers. Learn more at

About our Guest Danette Leighton

Danette Leighton serves as CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), founded in 1974 by Billie Jean King to strengthen and expand participation and leadership opportunities through research, advocacy, community programming and a wide variety of collaborative partnerships. Leighton joined WSF in 2022 as the seventh CEO in the organization’s history, which annually serves millions of girls and women to improve access and equity across all sports as fierce advocates of Title IX. To date, the organization has invested over $100 million to expand access and opportunities for girls and women in sports.

Prior to this role, Danette was chief marketing officer of the Pac-12 Conference. While with the Pac-12, she oversaw all external/marketing operations, including all major championships (football, men’s and women’s basketball, Pac-12 China Game, and many more).

Prior to her nearly 12 years with the Pac-12, Dannette was with NBA Sacramento Kings as vice president of marketing and brand development, as well as vice president of business operations for the WNBA Monarchs, where she led the business of the World Championship-winning WNBA franchise. She also previously worked for Sony and managed their sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii and was Stanford University’s executive director of the 1999 NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Danette is a graduate of the University of Arizona, where she earned her BA in Political Science and a minor in Media Arts. A mother of one daughter, Danette resides in California and credits her youth softball experience for helping shape her as a sports industry executive. Connect with Danette on LinkedIn.

About Host Erika Lucas

Erika is the Founder of StitchCrew, an organization connecting women and BIPOC entrepreneurs with the capital, resources and networks they need to launch and scale companies. Since its launch, StitchCrew has partnered with brands like the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Google, BASF, and others to fund and support more than 130 startups led by women and BIPOC founders. Erika also founded VEST, an organization investing in women-led companies and connecting women professionals with extended networks. In this capacity she also manages VEST Her Ventures, an early stage Venture Capital Firm investing in women-led companies building in the intersection of the Future of Work and Care Economy. She is also the host of the VEST Her Podcast, a show exploring the barriers women face in the workplace and sharing stories of women building power collectively. Prior to StitchCrew and VEST, Erika was a partner at a Private Equity Firm with investments in the U.S. and Europe. Before that she was the Global Director at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, where she led the Global Division in charge of Foreign Direct Investment and Trade. Erika was named by LinkedIn as Top Voice on Venture Capital. She is also on the Board of Directors of Arvest, a privately owned bank, the Diversion Hub, and the Oklahoma City County Health Department. Erika is also a member of the Latino Corporate Directors Association, Familia VC and LatinxVC. Connect with Erika on LinkedIn

Show Notes:

Women in Sports Foundation is an organization building a future where every girl and woman can play, be active, and realize her full potential. We’re building a movement of movement. Through Research. Advocacy. Community impact. And Partnerships. It’s time to transform the game so that every girl and woman can realize her power.

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