Men Are Not The Enemy

Veronica Harris
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Saturday, January 18, 2020

She Can Talk , Women In Sports Discussion with Shes4Sports

Close your eyes and imagine with me. You talk into a room with soft chatter and genuine laughs. You hear mostly women’s voices but every now and then you hear the deep comment of a man.  You look to your right and see a beautiful veggie platter with what better buddy to vegetables than cupcakes! A cupcake table with enough variety to satisfy everybody in the room. GSX Lab’s research  and industry assistant professor, Laurel Walzak calmly asked everyone to find their seats and get ready for what was going to be an oh so amazing night.


Ainka Jess, the founder of Shes4Sports and the host for the evening. This isn’t her first rodeo being in front of an audience with a microphone in hand. Ainka has been a speaker for many events including charities, banks and of course her own. Ainka speaks a little about the GXS Lab and how she was able to team up with this amazing group of people at Ryerson. She speaks a little about her own personal journey and then touches on the journeys of the women who are on this panel called “She Can Coach”.


Ainka first introduces Dr.Jen Welter. The very first female football coach to coach in the NFL. Dr. Welter coached the Arizona Cardinals back in 2015. That season she was with the Cardinals was actually their best season from 2009-current. They went on to beat the Packers in the Divisional Playoffs after finishing first in the NFC with a record of 13-3-0. No doubt Jen had something to do with this.


Next to be introduced was WNBA player and author Kayla Alexander. Kayla plays for the Chicago Sky. She also has a book called the Magic Of Baseketball.  The book is something magical and struck me when I first saw it because there was a little girl of colour on the cover. You don’t get to see that very often.  Kayla has been a center in the WNBA for 6 years and has also played overseas and a lot of female ballers do.She had quite a bit to say about the new CBA & WNBA players agreement that took place earlier this week. She is very grateful but believes there is still a way to go.


Ainka then calls up the very first woman (11th in the league) to be a part of the Toronto Raptors coaching staff. Brittni Donaldson isn’t only the first for the Raptors but she is the youngest throughout all 30 teams. She started as a data analyst for a company in Chicago once when she got out of Ohio State. Brittni then thought to herself , “hey, I bet NBA teams could find this information very useful”. She then applied to all teams and got a callback from the Raptors organization. The data she would input would track player movements, their shots, it would help scout opposing teams as well as even help decide who is a good draft choice. Crazy!


Last to join the panel, but defineitley the most humorous was Shireen Ahmed. Shireen is a writer and a sports activist with a podcast called Burn It All Down (go listen, now).  She loves cats, coffee and obviously her four children. Not only is she an advocate for women but also women of colour who don’t have a voice. She had recently teamed up with a group called Hijabi Ballers , a nonprofit organization that celebreates and increses opportunities for Muslim girls and women in sports. Not only do they tackle basketball, they are also including sports like baseball and swimming as well.


Fun Fact: She was a speaker in 2019 for TEDxToronto.


Some people think when they see or hear women in sport are standing up for themselves and the word feminism/feminist, they tend to think that men are being bashed and all men are bad. That is not true and every single woman on this panel had a male associate to thank for some portion in their career. 


This was truly an inspirational event and I highly suggest if you haven’t been to a Shes4Sports discussion, that you go! There will be three more events  this year at the GSX Lab, so as soon as you soon Ainka release that statement- get on it! You can see all her updates via their twitter (link below).