Donna Orender: “Talent should be celebrated no matter who puts it out on the court”

CYtmuSwWAAAp_RI“For me, I don’t know about you, but for me, this ball is a game-changer. Not only for me, but for girls and for women and boys like my son,” said Donna Orender during last week’s USF Sports and Entertainment MBA Lecture Series.  “As a young female athlete, if I wanted to be in the game, I’d best be carrying around my ball. What I love about this ball in particular is that it dances and it sings. And it represents for me, and for all of us, an incredible strength of human spirit. It embodies values.”

Donna’s presentation, “The Power of the Ball”, was in collaboration with USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy and focused on leveling the playing field in industry, business, and sports. “The ball speaks every language. It doesn’t know the gender of the hands that holds it, but it does speak male and it does speak female,” Orender said. “For most of us, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to feel the power of ball.”

The Oracle, the University of South Florida’s student newspaper, wrote a great summary of her talk.  Here is an excerpt:


There’s no question that gender plays a role in sports. Male sports bring in the money, the sponsors and the ratings, but in Orender’s eyes, talent is what should matter, not gender or race.

“Talent should be celebrated no matter who puts it out on the court.”

Putting those words into action, though, is a difficult task.

“There’s a gender divide,” Orender said of the sports world. “There are behavioral differences, there are social and cultural differences, there are people of different color, people of different backgrounds. All of these contribute to what all of us possess: the bias that we all have.”

Not even a person so involved and entrenched in the advancement of women could escape the bias engrained in society.

“I’m with a women’s networking business group on a golf trip to Colorado, doing this great work for the golf industry,” Orender said. “So I thought we’d go into the golf shop and I could kind of show how I am totally integrated and I know everybody.

“So I go in and ask for the pro and they introduce me to this woman who’s hanging up shirts. We talk for a bit and then I say to her, ‘So where’s the head pro?’ She goes, ‘I am the head pro.’”

But it wasn’t her fault. Orender said it’s the way gender is portrayed in sports media that teaches kids at a young age what is important and what falls by the wayside.


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