Jesse Ladoue McMullen is the Marketing Director, Licensed Sports for New Era Cap, the international sports and lifestyle brand. She began with the company in October 2017 as the Marketing Manager, Baseball. A new mom, she talks about how she crafted her return to work along with why she always reads the comments and what has her excited about the future at New Era.
1. What challenges have you faced as a woman in a sports/sports-related career and how have you approached them?
I once got into a debate with a former supervisor about a novelty sports event. At the conclusion he said, “That just shows you know nothing about sports.” I was speechless considering that my resumé and life experience say otherwise. It was a harsh realization that there are always going to be people within the sports space – male or female – that look down on you if you don’t have a comparable history on the field or court. It’s important to note that this person never participated in this event either, but felt they were more proficient on the topic regardless. That taught me that if my physical experience will never match what some consider “acceptable” within the sports industry, I have to rely on my knowledge.
I spend a significant amount of my personal time on sports publication sites and accounts to ensure I am up-to-date on league and player updates and topics. Anecdotally, each league has their own version of the game “wordle” to help guess players based on position, team and other clues. I play those every morning to stay sharp on current rosters!
2. As a new mom, how has the experience been of returning to work?
I need to acknowledge that I am very fortunate in my situation. My husband has a flexible schedule and we have a supportive family unit. I know that is not the norm for most women. I love what I do so that definitely makes the separation easier.
Practically, however, I have done three things differently. The first is I have shifted my in-office schedule. I start my day at 7 a.m. This gives me a head start to attack emails or other administrative functions prior to everyone else being in the office. By shifting forward I get more awake time with my daughter before her early bedtime. That has made me feel so much more fulfilled and I’m grateful for the flexibility. Second, I have empowered my team to start traveling more for our routine events that I would have attended in the past. During my maternity leave, they proved to be more than capable and I leaned into that when I returned. Finally, for the higher profile moments in sports, I would have been out of town for several days. Instead, we are splitting time amongst the team. So I’m not necessarily taking fewer trips, just shorter ones.
3. What do you think is the biggest barrier in driving the visibility of women’s sports?
Media coverage is a huge barrier in women’s sports. In 2019, over 90% of TV coverage of sports was focused on men. How can women’s sports grow without exposure? The more fans are introduced to faces, names, teams, rivalries, etc. the more they will continue to connect and invest time and money into women’s sports. Metrics are favorable. When women’s sporting events are shown in primetime placements, their numbers are growing – the Women’s World Cup, College Softball World Series, WNBA Draft and March Madness come to mind most recently.
4. What advice would you give to any woman starting out or trying to break down barriers in a male dominated industry?
Read the comments. Now, this one requires a thick skin, but you need to face it head-on. Every time I see an article about women breaking barriers in sports, I take a deep breath in and read the comments. It’s a painful process filled with unkind words about how unqualified the person is, how it shouldn’t be newsworthy, how it’s just to meet a quota. I know differently. Reading the comments fuels me and makes me want to celebrate women louder. It motivates me to continue to forge my own path so more women see themselves in this industry without limitation.
5. What project are you working on now (career or personal) that has you most excited?
Since the start of COVID, our marketing team has gone back to basics, focusing on efficiencies and process. Now that we are starting to feel more comfortable in sports schedules and in-person events, we are back to big picture ideating. One of New Era’s biggest opportunities is our apparel business. We are known for our quality in headwear, but our apparel is spectacular as well. Building that marketing plan has been a departure from what we have been laser-focused on, but a really exciting challenge.