Kellie McElhaney: Women’s Power at the Oakland Raiders

Oakland Safety Charles Woodson with Girls College Access Now.

For one of the more improbable case studies of women in business leadership – and how it can make a big difference — read Kellie A. McElhaney’s account of the Oakland Raiders in the San Francisco Chronicle.

McElhaney, adjunct professor at Berkeley-Haas and the first director of the Center for Responsible Business, notes that the National Football League hasn’t covered itself in glory on women’s issues.

Last season, the public was treated to multiple allegations and graphic evidence of domestic violence against women: players hitting, kicking and hair-dragging their wives, fiancés and girlfriends. The NFL responded initially with a mixture of silence, weak denunciations and short suspensions that amounted to a slap on the wrist.

But then there is the untold story of the Oakland Raiders. The team’s top management, which includes a very high percentage of women, “strategized, stepped up, stood out, stepped forward and continues to lead today.”

McElhaney starts with the Raiders leadership. No fewer than 43% of the team’s executive vice presidents are women, versus a league average of 15%. Similarly, 43% of the senior administrators are women, compared to a league average of 19%. The Raider’s had the NFL’s first female CEO – Ann Trask, who departed in 2013 to become an NFL analyst for CBS.

Happily, no player on the Raiders has even been charged with domestic violence.

But the Raiders have also been pro-active on a host of fronts. Wide receiver Rod Streater worked for a KPIX telethon against domestic violence in June. The team has partnered with Girls Inc., which runs programs to empower girls across the United States and Canada. Former Raider Fred Biletnikoff and his wife, Angela, who lost their daughter Tracy to domestic violence, created the Biletnikoff Foundation to provide housing and support to victims of domestic violence.

It’s worth noting that all this connects directly to Berkeley-Haas. The Raiders’ team president, Marc Badain, graduated from Haas in 2001. Brandon Doll, Haas ’14, is the team’s Director of Strategic Projects.

Last fall, in a presentation to McElhaney’s class on investing in women, Doll challenged the students to develop a substantive strategy for the Raiders organization that would improve on the NFL’s response to domestic violence. The students made recommendations to Doll, which shaped a presentation he later made on the issue to the team’s leadership.

Share this: