SAN DIEGO -- The annual Women in Baseball Leadership Event (WiBLE) at the Baseball Winter Meetings allows women to learn from each other, which in turn, benefits the entire Minor League workforce as these employees find new ideas, solutions to problems and feel more empowered in their roles.
At each year's event, WiBLE provides attendees the opportunity to hear a variety of speakers, have thought-provoking roundtable discussions and make genuine connections in the industry. It's an event hosted by women for women working full time for a Minor League Baseball or Major League Baseball team or league.
A theme at this year's Baseball Winter Meetings was diversity, with several discussions and forums addressing the topic. One of the key points at each meeting was the importance of having a person who looks like you in a room. The comfort level of an individual improves significantly when someone is similar to them. As a female working in baseball, it's common to look around and be one of the only, if not the only, woman in the room. At WiBLE, the ease of the crowd was immediately apparent. Here was a room of more than 150 women who not only understood the struggles of working in Minor League Baseball in general but also understood the added weight of being a female in a male-dominated field.
Minor League Baseball president and CEO Pat O'Conner delivered the event's opening remarks and expressed his support of and commitment to women in baseball. Pensacola Blue Wahoos vice president of operations Donna Kirby, emcee of the event, then introduced keynote speaker, Cindy Moran. Moran is the founder and director of MVP-Results, a business that helps companies hire the right people and manage them more effectively through talent optimization.
Prior to the WiBLE, each attendee took a behavioral assessment through MVP-Results and was handed a packet detailing the results upon entering the event. The chart highlighted things such as: Do you want to be in charge or do you like to collaborate? Do you want to talk it out or think it through? Do you need stability or variety? And, finally, do you prefer flexibility or structure?
There were four points of reference on the graph and each person's dots were placed on a sliding scale between the traits listed above. Moran walked the group through the results and highlighted some key behaviors of each personality type. Applying this exercise to the workplace, she stressed the importance of fitting a job to a person rather than trying to squeeze a person into a mold that will never fit. Based on the laughs, knowing looks and nods around the room, it was clear that the majority, if not everyone, listening to the presentation found their charts to be very relatable.
Following Moran's presentation, attendees at each table were given time to compare results. The discussion began with each person explaining a trait she was most proud of that was highlighted through the Predictive Index and organically moved into identifying the work styles and personalities of managers and coworkers. The conversation was capped with advice on how to adapt personal communication in a way that fulfills individual work style while accommodating how others may think and do things.
Rebecca Zook, a graphic designer for the Albuquerque Isotopes and first-time attendee, was appreciative of the avenue it provided to meet new people and network.
"This is my first Winter Meetings in general and I think with this event, it's just really nice to meet different women that are in the same situation that I'm in," Zook said. "It's not necessarily to say that we have no women, but we have a very small percentage of women in our front office. The guys try to understand and try to support where they can, but it's a different world view. Especially when you are coming up, you feel like you have to prove yourself. You not only have to do your job but you have to do it better to be accepted. So it was really cool being able to listen to people -- from vice presidents all the way to interns -- tell me that they've had the same exact experience and have the same problems that I've had, and it's great to hear their advice on how they got out of it, too. It's just really beneficial."
Isotopes community relations manager Michelle Montoya has attended WiBLE for the last three years.
"It's so empowering and motivating to see how all of these strong women in various positions, from management to grounds crew, do everything," she said. "It's really empowering to hear their stories, have peer-to-peer networking and to find people to reach out to who know what you are going through. I think this event has gotten better and better since I've been coming."
WiBLE began in 2008 and, more than a decade later, continues to grow and develop. As Montoya and Zook said, it's invaluable to be in a room of 150-plus people who share your experiences. As every WiBLE does, this year's event closed with hundreds of exchanged business cards and just as many embraces. The continued support of O'Conner and Minor League Baseball, and the hard work of the Women in Baseball Leadership Committee, makes this an event that women across the sport look forward to each year.
Shelby Cravens is a contributor to MiLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.