Overview

The professional sports industry is largely dominated by men, from management to media. The GIST has challenged this gender gap by creating a sports media source for the largely untapped market of women and casual sports fans who have often felt excluded from this industry that has been an old boys’ club for too long.   

Course Topics:
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Business design 
  • Diversity and inclusion 
  • Business of sports 
  • Media industry 
  • Gender analysis  

Introduction:

The origin story of The GIST—a sports media start-up based in Toronto, Canada—has become the stuff of legend. Three friends, Ellen Hyslop, Jacie deHoop, and Roslyn McLarty, were chatting over dinner one night back in the winter of 2017 when conversation turned to a recent win by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hyslop had excitedly brought up the win because it meant the team was headed to the playoffs for the first time in four years. Her friends were riveted as she spoke animatedly about the game and its ramifications, leaving the women wanting to hear more—something they did not typically feel when talking about sports. 

It was this conversation that caused deHoop and McLarty to wonder why, despite having participated in competitive sports, their past experience had not translated into a continued passion for sport as adults.  Through researching the answer to this question, the three women found that not only are professional sports themselves male-dominated, but the industry as a whole, from management to media, is as well. They found that “less than 14% of sports journalists are women, only 4% of sports media content is dedicated to female athletes, and less than 2% of c-suite executives in major-league sports are women.” This male-focused content had persisted despite the fact that “women make up 47% of highly engaged, passionate sports fans” across a collection of thirteen of the world’s most popular sports. It was from this realisation that the idea for The GIST was born: a sports media source created by women for all those underserved fans that have not always felt sports are for them. The founders began their journey challenging the status quo of conventional sports media with a bi-weekly newsletter covering men’s and women’s sports, with an emphasis on Toronto’s professional sports teams. From these modest beginnings The GIST has expanded across North America and become a uniquely female voice leveling the playing field of an industry that has for too long been the epitome of an old boys’ club. 

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This case was written by:

This case was written by Victoria Sahagian and Ana Baseio. The authors prepared this case under the supervision of Professor Sarah Kaplan, with guidance from Alyson Colón, Bonnie Lam and Vanessa Serra Iarocci and research assistance from Carmina Ravanera. The authors are grateful for the participation of Jacie deHoop in this project.

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