Sounds intriguing. What is it? The answers may surprise you.
Yes, it’s Women’s History Month, and it’s become familiar to see teams launch initiatives around theme months and current events. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, it’s often a chance to make a connection with the community in tangible ways, but the Indomitable Women’s Network hopes to be more broad-reaching than that.
The idea came to Grace Ogata-Beutler, executive assistant and office manager at Sacramento Republic, as she explained during a recent interview with Indomitable City Soccer on the initiative.
“I kind of randomly just had a couple of similar conversations with women co-workers last year about how I wish there was just an opportunity for us to just get together and just, even if it’s just hanging out or talking about any issues that we’re facing, or just sometimes you just want people to lean on that you have things in common,” Ogata-Beutler explained. “And obviously working in sports, it is a male-dominated industry now. So sometimes it’s just hard to get away from the men and we said we’ll maybe we just need to be conscious about it and create something that just gives us the space to, aside from normal work things, to just connect and build relationships, and maybe make some change around here.”
As the original inspiration indicates, the plan is to take a holistic approach in building the Indomitable Women’s Network, starting with support systems for women in and around the club, expanding that reach into the Sacramento-area and soccer communities more broadly where it makes sense, and providing several different kinds of programming to be a resource and help women.
“Initially, we are heavily focused on supporting the women within our organization, that is the beginning of this program,” said Allison Yee-Garcia, vice president of marketing and communications for Republic FC. “There aren’t a ton of us. And so I think the early stages of this are providing an opportunity for all of us to connect and get to know each other a little bit, open those relationships up, create some lines of communication, so that people do feel like they have peers that they can lean on. And then certainly for me from an executive perspective, I want to make sure that I am making myself available to support not just my own team but women across the organization. So, the initial set of programming is really going to be focused on creating open lines of communication within the organization.”
Yee-Garcia noted that one area of focus in the initiative would be to provide better support moving forward to partners of players on the first team.
“Grace brought this up, which I think was very astute, is making this available not just to the women that work at the organization but women that are associated with the organization,” she said. “So, wives and partners of players and soccer ops staff and other individuals that, especially for the women that come into this market, as part of a family with a player, it can be very isolating and feel kind of transient, and we want to make sure that we are supporting them as women, as professionals, and as members of our indomitable soccer community.”
Yee-Garcia also noted that over time, the Indomitable Women’s Network hopes to pick back up with the efforts made by the club with their “#WatchMe” initiative, targeting girls’ and women’s participation in sports.
“I think this time in 2019, we were launching our ‘Watch Me’ campaign which was really focused on girls playing soccer and coaching. And unfortunately, we did a good amount in 2019, and then the pandemic kind of hit and everything stalled out a little bit. We had to kind of triage some of the work that we were doing in the community, if you will. And so my hope is that this program, having a group of women in the office that are focused on this, can reinvigorate some of the work that we started in 2019 under ‘Watch Me,’ and that those two programs can kind of work hand in hand and can refocus our energy around girls and women in the community and the game of soccer, while also supporting each other and finding kind of new streams of programming to support women within the organization.”
There are plans for future events, likely both virtual and in-person as permitted, including career panels for college students and recent grads looking to work in sports, guest speakers to offer advice and perspective to women within the club, and help in youth soccer clinics, presumably to demonstrate women in coaching roles to youth players and teach the game to a new generation.
But Ogata-Beutler and Yee-Garcia both noted one of the aims with the Indomitable Women’s Network is to model a supportive environment for all women.
“What I want people to know is, as a woman in the workplace, or as a woman in a male- dominated industry, you’re not alone, reach out to each other,” said Yee-Garcia. “I think that some of this is leading by example. If we can create this kind of environment within our organization, I would encourage women across the community, across industries, to do the same in their space. If they’re feeling isolated, they’re not alone, there are other women in your organization that are feeling the same way. Grace did such a good job of being courageous enough to raise her hand and say ‘Hey, I’m recognizing that this is something that I’m feeling, and maybe it’s something that other people are feeling too. So, let’s do something about it.’”
Ogata-Beutler noted the aim is not to wall off women from their male peers, but to band together and be available in a more organized way, while also working with those peers.
“One of the things that I was most excited about for this was just creating a more formal channel for us as the women in the office to have a voice, and just a presence in that way. That’s one of the things we told the men in the office — we call them allies — we told them, use us as a resource, if you have something, and you say, ‘Hey we really, we really need to have some women in the office look at this,’ come to the group, we can say, ‘Hey we have a couple people that want to help out with that.’”
And if you want to get involved? You can reach out to the Indomitable Women’s Network by emailing them at IWN@sacrepublicfc.com. Whether you have organizational skills you hope to lend to the cause, or have a team of your own that could use a pep talk from someone in the network, they’d love to hear from you.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.