At the Top of Their Game

An all-female group of general counsels for DC sports teams spoke about their path to the C-suite at a WCL event

A roster of the some of the most powerful sports executives in the country—all of them women—chronicled their rise to the C-suite during a lunchtime panel, November 13, at AU’s Washington College of Law.

Left to right: Professor Jeremi Duru; Julie Jensen, SPA/BA ‘95, WCL/JD ’02; the Nationals' Betsy Philpott; the Spirits' Shameeka Quallo; Abby Blomstrom of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics; the Commanders' Mali Friedman; and AUWCL Dean Roger A. Fairfax Jr. Photo by Keith Pierce

The event, sponsored by WCL’s Sport and Society Initiative, featured four general counselors representing six Washington sports teams: the Commanders’ Mali Friedman, the Spirits’ Shameeka Quallo, the Nationals’ Betsy Philpott, and Abby Blomstrom of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics.

The District is one of only a few cities in the country where all professional sports teams are helmed by a female lawyer. (DC United’s Jessica Wright was not in attendance.)

Across all industries, women make up just 28 percent of C-suite executive roles, according to McKinsey and Company data, while 38.5 percent of all general counsels are women, according to Zippia. In sports, those gender disparities are often even more pronounced—especially when they intersect with other marginalized identities.

From left: the Commanders' Mali Friedman, moderator Julie Jensen, Monumental Sports' Abby Blomstrom, and the Spirits' Shameeka Quallo on stage. Photo by Jeff Watts.

“Anytime I walk in [the room], there are two things that are undeniable: I am a Black woman,” Quallo said. “That’s sort of been my story of being in rooms, places, and spaces where I don’t see a lot of people who look like me. Inherently, it’s something that’s top of mind, but it’s also embedded in how I show up. I’m always mindful of who else I’m bringing with me.”

“It’s important to be very conscientious about it,” added Philpott, senior vice president and general counsel for the Washington Nationals. “Live intentionally with that in mind when you’re going to work, especially if you’re a female leader.”

The conversation was moderated by Julie Jensen, SPA/BA ‘95, WCL/JD ’02, a former executive for the now Commanders and founder and co-CEO of Jasper Advisors, who also gave space for the panelists to explain the responsibilities of a general counselor.

The top lawyer for each team handles all legal matters, including business transactions, contracts, litigation, and risk management advice. It’s a job that touches every aspect of the organization.

View more photos from the event here.

~Story by Jack Frederick. Video by Brice Helms.