Kim Ng became the general manager of the Miami Marlins on Friday and with that became the first female to hold that position in North American professional sports.
Ng’s hiring was just the latest takedown of a barrier by a woman out of the four major professional sports leagues in the U.S. and Canada. Ng may have been overqualified for the position.
She got started with the Chicago White Sox in 1990 and worked for the organization until 1996. In 1998, she joined the New York Yankees and was there during the team’s World Series runs. She was then with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2002 to 2011 and in the MLB Commissioner’s Office from 2011 to 2020.
She interviewed with several teams for the general manager job over the course of her career and finally landed the job Friday.
It’s taken a very long time, but women have finally started to tear down some of the barriers put up in the male-dominated arena of professional sports.
Read below for more pioneers who have made strides in sports over the last few years.
Alyssa Nakken joined the Giants in 2020 (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Ng is not the only person making strides in the sport. Amanda Hopkins, Justine Siegal, Rachel Balkovec, and Alyssa Nakken have all entered Major League Baseball in full-time roles over the last few years.
Hopkins became the second-ever full-time baseball scout when she was hired by the Seattle Mariners in 2016. She was the first since Edith Houghton in 1951.
Meanwhile, Siegal was the first female coach of a professional baseball team in 2009. She was the first woman to throw batting practice to an MLB team in 2011 and in 2015 became the first female to be a coach on an MLB team when she joined the Oakland Athletics.
Balkovec joined the Yankees in 2019. She was the first woman to be hired as a full-time hitting coach. She nearly joined the San Francisco Giants as a quality control coach but took the Yankees’ job instead.
Nakken became the first female full-time MLB coach in history when she joined the Giants in 2020. She was hired as an assistant coach and became the first female coach to be on the field during a major league game when the sport returned in July amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Becky Hammon was a former WNBA star who joined the NBA ranks in 2014.
Basketball has made more strides than any other of the four major sports to be more inclusive. Former WNBA stars and women’s college basketball legends have taken jobs as assistant coaches on NBA benches.
Lisa Boyer was the first female assistant coach in basketball history. She joined the Cleveland Cavaliers’ staff in 2001 for a season.
Becky Hammon joined Gregg Popovich’s staff in 2014. She became the first female full-time assistant NBA coach and in 2015 coached the San Antonio Spurs’ NBA Summer League team to a championship.
It was those hirings that broke open doors for other former basketball stars. Jenny Boucek, Natalie Nakase, Kristi Toliver, Brittni Donaldson, Lindsay Gottlieb, Lindsey Harding, Niele Ivey, Teresa Weatherspoon and Sonia Raman all serve on NBA benches.
Karen Stack Umlauf was on the Chicago Bulls’ bench and served as the organization’s senior director of basketball operations before a new regime was put in place. Kara Lawson was on the Boston Celtics’ staff and later parlayed that into a full-time head coaching position with the Duke women’s basketball team.
Nancy Lieberman is a pioneer in the coaching world for women. She was the first woman to coach a professional basketball team in the U.S. with the G-League’s Texas Legends in 2010. She later became a head coach in the Big 3 and won a championship there in 2018.
Katie Sowers is an offensive assistant for the 49ers. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
The sport of football has recently seen its share of women on coaching staff and helping players develop.
Jen Welter was a pioneer for the sport. She was named the linebackers and special teams coach of the Texas Revolution of Champions Indoor Football – making her the first woman to coach in a pro men’s football league. Two years later, she joined the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff as an assistant coaching intern and was believed to be the first female coach in the NFL at any level.
Welter would also serve as a defensive assistant for the doomed Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.
Several women followed in Welter’s footsteps.
Katie Sowers joined the San Francisco 49ers staff in 2019 and was the first female and first openly gay coach to appear at the Super Bowl in NFL history.
Kathryn Smith became the first full-time female coach in the NFL when she joined the Buffalo Bills as a special teams quality control coach in 2016 after having been in league circles since about 2003. However, she was not retained when Sean McDermott replaced Rex Ryan in 2017.
Sarah Thomas broke a barrier on the officiating side in 2015 when she became the first female official in the NFL. In 2020, the NFL saw Thomas and two female coaches make history.
During a game between the Cleveland Browns and Washington Football Team, Thomas, Callie Brownson and Jennifer King all appeared in the same game. It was the first time that female coaches would be on both sidelines, and a female NFL official would be calling the game.
It only took 101 years.
Hockey hasn’t broke down as many barriers as other major men’s sports leagues when it comes to coaching. But unlike the other leagues, a woman actually participated with the men in a National Hockey League game.
Manon Rheaume, an Olympic silver medalist, appeared in an NHL preseason game for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and 1993. She also played in the minors for the International Hockey League.
Behind the bench, Dawn Braid became the NHL’s first full-time female coach in 2016. Braid joined the Arizona Coyotes as a skating coach.