The Memphis Open presented by ServiceMaster is the only indoor tournament in The Americas. The United States used to have others, most notably one in Philadelphia with a woman tournament director, Marilyn Fernberger, but with the passage of time things have changed so much in world tennis.
In the women’s game when Virginia Slims dominated the circuit in the 1980’s more women were tournament directors or incredibly high up in the food chain. Their slogan was so apt: “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby”.
It is not quite the same these days.
Women in charge of events are so few and far between and it really struck me when I spent a week in the city that Elvis Presley used to call home. I was working at the Memphis Open and it was the first time I worked directly for a woman tournament director, Erin Mazurek.
It got me to thinking about the lack of women tournament directors in professional tennis. On the ATP World Tour out of the 61 tournaments just four have women tournament directors. On the WTA tour their 59 events have just ten women in charge of events.
However, if you look at percentages the four majors have the best ratio, 25% - Wimbledon, the tournament so many think is fuddy duddy is in fact pretty progressive; The Championships is headed by a woman, Sarah Clarke.
This is not a flat out argument to say there must be more women at the helm. I am of the opinion that the best person for the job should get the job.
There was one woman on Twitter during the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final last year that kept on harping over the fact that the chair umpires for that women’s event were men. So does that mean just because it is a women’s event there should be women in the chair. It’s a silly notion. It must be a case of the best available at the time doing the job … man or woman.
The situation with women as tournament directors is likely no different to women in the corporate world. Women are invariably more amenable to a wider spectrum of concerns and quite possibly don’t put themselves in a position to be considered for the top job. That’s a shame because a woman is likely to bring a different perspective to the role.
However, on another angle there is a view that women in the most senior of positions have to prove themselves to the male dominated world and in those situations they will take extra strides than a man in the same role to make the best of it.