Bet on Women series
The GIST partnered with FanDuel to highlight women who are shaping the future of sports and sports betting industries, all making up the Bet on Women Series.
Despite hockey and tech being male-dominated spaces, Meghan Chayka not only carved out a place for herself, but also revolutionized the way we look at the game by co-founding Stathletes, a hockey analytics company, 13 years ago.
- More recently, Chayka has teamed up with FanDuel to share her insider knowledge through her very own TSN segment called Strength in Numbers.
And she’s just as passionate about the progress of women’s sports and women in sports as she is about stats. Here’s some slices of knowledge she shared with The GIST:
- On betting on yourself: “As an entrepreneur, you bet on yourself every day. Starting a company, pitching and then scaling are all different challenges that force you to believe in yourself and your ability to figure it out as you go.” (We can relate!)
On how to support women in sports: “Time, capital, and media coverage are probably the biggest, but there are many, even as an individual. Engage with content and attend games when they are in your area.”
When Kate Beirness was a 22-year-old aspiring on-air broadcaster, she turned down a paying job at Sportsnet to work for free at a local TV station and hone her skills. Three years later, she earned an on-air position at TSN.
- Now one of the network’s most well-known faces and with a resume spanning multiple Olympics and the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship, Beirness recalls having to work harder than some of her colleagues in order to prove herself in the beginning.
- “I would have an off show and the response would be that I don’t know anything about sports, whereas a male counterpart would have a bad show and be told he was just having an off day,” she told The GIST.
That’s part of the reason why Beirness goes the extra mile to support her younger female colleagues, specifically in helping them not be intimidated by the industry.
- “I think supporting one another is critical,” she said. “The smallest things, like an encouraging text, can make a huge impact.” Couldn’t agree more.
It’s one thing to bet on FanDuel, it’s another when FanDuel bets on you. That’s exactly what happened to Tekeyah Singh, on-air talent at TSN, and one of the faces of the network’s partnership with FanDuel.
- Singh started at TSN as a content producer in 2018 and continued to grow with the company ever since, going from small interviews to recently hosting an entire NFL season while working with the FanDuel team.
While Singh is quick to recognize the challenges that come with being a woman in the sports industry — like not being taken seriously, or facing hostility in male-dominanted spaces — she’s also proud that the industry is trending in the right direction.
- “There’s been an effort to try and change these narratives,” she told The GIST. “In an industry that can be so competitive, I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing women and gain them as lifelong friends.”
Whether you’re watching Sportscentre or the big game, flip on TSN and you’re almost guaranteedto see FanDuel’s sports betting odds integrated into their coverage.
- That innovative partnership wouldn’t have been possible without Tiffany Shiu, senior manager of sports strategy and partnerships at TSN.
Shiu has a direct hand in shaping the way TSN evolves and adapts, and has made FanDuel a priority in her planning. She’s also a vocal supporter of women’s sports.
- Armed with strong viewership and engagement stats, Shiu pushes brands to recognize that sponsoring women’s sports is simply smart business.
- As she told The GIST, “that’s how we continue to build momentum and create fundamental change for women’s sports.” Keep leveling that playing field.
When sports betting officially became legal in Canada in 2021, FanDuel product manager Jasmine Smith was an integral part of bringing her company to eager fans north of the border.
- Her new role quickly became an opportunity to not only continue to open doors for herself, but also other women trying to break into the male-dominated industry.
But as she rocketed up the corporate ladder, Smith says she still faced negative internal dialogue like self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Relatable. Fortunately, she shared a couple of tips in conquering challenges:
- On overcoming: “I encourage any woman out there who might doubt her ideas as inferior, rest assured that you were hired for a reason. Be sure to use your voice, as your idea might just be that needle mover!”
On aiding the progress of women in sport: “...ensure that more women are hired into positions of influence. Women of all walks of life deserve a seat at the table, for without the diversity POV, we will continue to see biases and blind spots in decision making.”
Ever wonder about who sets the “odds” in sports? Like, where are these probabilities actually coming from?
- Enter: Shannon Oros, a sports trader at FanDuel who sets the lines for betting markets and adjusts on the fly.
- In practice, this means doing things like tracking Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ ankle recovery ahead of the Super Bowl. Too cool.
A lifelong football fan, it wasn’t until Oros started asking a friend about every play and call that she became confident enough to sports bet and, later, leave her comfortable actuary job to pursue a career in sports trading.
And this experience had Oros thinking about inclusivity: “I absolutely love that sports and sports betting bring people together. But it can feel intimidating for people, especially women, to assert themselves into a realm where they haven’t felt a sense of belonging.”
“All of us sports-lovers can make conscious efforts to be inclusive by explaining the rules and strategies to those unfamiliar. Anyone can learn, and all of us should be eager to teach.” Now that’s the kind of advice we live by.
Sometimes to get to the top, you have to take a step sideways. At least that’s what Alex Gillan, director of partnership marketing at MLSE, credits her success to.
- While many of her friends were climbing the corporate ladder, Gillan decided to hit pause, follow her gut and make a lateral move within MLSE, one of the largest sports and entertainment companies in North America. Fast forward 11 years, and now she’s a director.
- Gillian also credits her progress to having “many incredible [female] leaders and peers at MLSE who have always lifted me up and believed in me. I strive to do the same for my team.”
Working with big league Toronto teams like the NHL’s Maple Leafs, NBA’s Raptors, CFL’s Argos and MLS’s TFC is no easy feat, and it’s especially hard balancing life with kids. But Gillian’s found a way to make motherhood her super power:
“[Being a mom’s] made me a more empathetic leader, it's taught me to give others (and myself) grace, it's shown me how to be patient, taught me about balance and what really matters.” Mom goals, indeed.
What if it’s not about the destination or the journey, but instead about who you bring along for the ride?
- That’s Alannah Della Vedova’s, FanDuel Canada’s director of content and brandl, mentality. She says the most rewarding part of her work is supporting others, specifically women.
Almost a decade ago, and despite being underqualified, Della Vedova was hired in a junior brand role at Rogers that changed the trajectory of her career: “It’s been a small reminder to push through those sneaking feelings of self-doubt. If a ‘stranger’ is willing to bet on me, I should bet on myself everyday.” Imposter syndrome, be gone!
Today, it’s in her job description to build community for sports bettors, but it’s in her heart to build up women in the industry: “more time on broadcast, more exposure in meetings, more opportunities on platforms of influence.”
One example? Through FanDuel’s partnership with TSN, segments like Meghan Chayka’s Strength in Numbers have carved out a space for women in a traditionally male-dominated field. Something we can get behind.
Not many people can say their job takes them from the boardroom to courtside, but as senior director of global partnerships at NBA Canada, Cheryl Sebastian’s responsibilities truly run the gamut.
- Most recently, she’s helping bring the first-ever WNBA preseason game to Toronto on May 13th, creating positive momentum around women’s sports in Canada. About damn time.
When chatting with The GIST about being a woman in sports, and more specifically a woman of color, Sebastian called attention to a powerful Serena Williams quote: “It doesn't matter what your background is or where you come from, if you have dreams and goals, that's all that matters.”
- Sebastian said she makes a point to embrace diversity, show up authentically, and “push the boundaries on innovative ideas that appeal to our broad fanbase.” Talk about changing the game from the inside.
As an associate director of public relations (PR) at Mint, Jamie Eisen’s role is crucial to shaping the public perception of FanDuel.
- Day-to-day, that means working with brands, press, influencers and more to tell FanDuel’s stories with impact and meaning. Turns out, being a publicist isn’t quite like an episode of Flack.
And Eisen’s impact has extended far beyond PR. After receiving mentorship early in her career that taught her to bet on herself, Eisen’s all about paying it forward and actively supporting other women in the industry.
- Her advice for when the going gets tough? “It can feel hard to belong, but remembering that you have a strong voice is so important.” Cheers to that!