Last Friday, Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins appointed Kim Ng as their GM.
Ng becomes the first female general manager of any major men’s sports team in the U.S. Much of the press has focused on her latest achievement and its promise for women in sports, but Ng’s achievements span three decades.
An MVP softball player at the University of Chicago, she interned for the Chicago White Sox after graduating. She was hired full-time by the team, starting as their special projects analyst in 1991 before being promoted to Assistant Director of Baseball Operations in 1995. As a member of the White Sox, she was the youngest person, and the first woman, to handle a salary arbitration case, where the League sided with her and the team on the future contract of pitcher Alex Fernandez.
In 1998 Ng was appointed Assistant General Manager of the New York Yankees, again the youngest person to ever have the position, as well as only the fourth woman to do so. Ng, already recognized as a star executive, attracted the attention of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unfortunately, when considering their next general manager in 2005, the team passed her up, instead hiring Ned Colleti, who would lead the team for almost a decade. Four other teams considered her for the same job, but all selected other candidates. Leaving the Dodgers in 2011, she worked as the senior vice president of baseball operations for the MLB until the Marlins hired her.
Colleti himself congratulated Ng, tweeting, “Not just an historic choice, but an outstanding choice. […] Kim has been prepared for this moment in time for a very long time.”
Commissioner of MLB Rob Manfred spoke about Ng in an interview with Sports Illustrated. The two have been acquaintances and colleagues since Manfred joined the league in 1998. “It really is a historic thing for our sport,” Manfred said. “For that side of the business, to have a woman in the GM’s job, it really is an amazing accomplishment for her. […] It is heartening for people who work in the game a long time. Stay at it. Your opportunity comes.”
Ng made a statement following the announcement of her hiring on Friday. “When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a Major League team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals,” Ng said. “My goal is now to bring championship baseball to Miami.”
Pro sports have always been dominated by men. Women have made gains in the past 20 years in the back offices, in the analytics and business side of sports. But it’s still difficult for women to advance as coaches and general managers, the public faces of teams.
There is a spattering of female assistant coaches in men’s sports, like Becky Hammon and Nancy Lieberman of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings. In 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first full-time official in the NFL. Yet, for the most part, women are still kept from the most prominent roles in sports, be it from groups of men already taking up the top or from being denied opportunities as early as childhood.
It took 30 years of perseverance for Ng to reach one of the highest rungs of professional sports. Time will tell if the old boys’ clubs of sports leagues will open up more opportunities for women, both in offices and on the field.