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Canadian Samantha Rapoport, tackles the NFL’s gender imbalance (USA/Canada)

The NFL is making it a priority to get more women employed in football, and a Canadian woman is leading its efforts.

When Samantha Rapoport first applied for an internship with the NFL in 2003, the McGill University student had no connections in the sport outside of the women with whom she played tackle football.

So the student of kinesiology and business management put her heart and soul into her application, and then packaged it along with a football and a message: “What other quarterback could accurately deliver a football 386 miles?”

Rapoport got her foot in the door at the NFL’s New York headquarters some 15 years ago, and today she is directing the league’s initiatives to identify qualified female candidates and open more pathways for them to work in the sport. She’s partnering with leaders throughout football, including the CFL.

The NFL has long had many women working on the business side – women hold 33 per cent of all front-office positions across the NFL, including 14 who are either principal owners or own a stake in one of its franchises. But there are still very few working in areas such as coaching, scouting, officiating and team operations.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to flood the football-operations pipeline with qualified women in all levels of football,” said Rapoport, who is now the NFL’s director of development.

Toward that goal, Rapoport is fresh off organizing the second NFL Women’s Careers in Football Forum, held in Orlando during Pro Bowl weekend. From a pool of 400 female applicants, 50 women representing five countries were selected for the event, including four Canadians with experience in tackle football. It was an intensive weekend of learning and networking with employers from the NFL, CFL, college and high-school football programs.



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