Terry Lee-Wilk is a neuropsychologist who lives in Columbia, Maryland, with her sports-loving family.
I have been disheartened to see the COVID-19 pandemic called the “Kung Flu” and to hear of associated incidents of hate crimes against Asians and Asian American/Pacific Islanders, so I welcomed the news my kids announced over our mutual virtual school and work breaks the other day: “Hey mom, did you hear they picked an Asian American woman GM in the MLB?”
When the Miami Marlins named Kim Ng general manager last week, she became the first Asian American person to hold that position for a Major League Baseball team and the first woman. In fact, she is the first woman hired as a GM by any major professional men’s team in North American sports.
I think it’s no coincidence that it took another barrier breaker to do what no other team had done before. The Marlins’ Derek Jeter, the first Black man to become a CEO of an MLB team, was the first to hire a woman to lead an entire baseball team’s organization.
Though our family consists of die-hard New York Mets fans, we give huge kudos to Jeter and the Marlins organization for this decision. The Marlins have actively pledged to build an increasingly diverse organization, and my hope is that other organizations follow suit.
While my boys didn’t know how to pronounce her name (“is it nidge or en-gee?”), hearing the news from them was nevertheless music to this Asian American mom’s ears (it’s pronounced “ang”). A few years ago, I wrote an OpEd about having discussions with my sons about girls playing baseball and gender equality. At that time, I spoke of the importance of having ongoing discussions about equality, diversity and inclusion with my half-Asian children. That’s never been more important than it is right now.
Having discussions about race and equality with your children may be hard, but weaving it in with something they care about (for my kids, it’s sports) makes the conversation easier and more relevant. I am certain they told me this story because they knew it would be important to me, but I’m hoping they took interest in the news because it’s also important to them. I like to believe that some of the discussions we have had over the years have left an impression on their developing minds, and they realize this is relevant to them.
“Whether or not you are aware of this yet,” I told them, “she is breaking barriers for you.”
Representation matters, I said to my boys, who dream of having careers in any aspect of sports, whether it be playing, coaching or analyzing the game. Kim Ng is paving the way for all children as well as for individuals from different races, ethnicities, genders and ages who differ from the current makeup of sports leadership. Whether it’s to lead a baseball team’s organization or to lead the country, reflecting the diverse composition of our nation is important.
I’m glad the media is treating this like the big story it is. Across social media platforms, I noticed some of the usual negative comments (“she will fail,” “she won’t be able to make big decisions like a man,” etc.), but overwhelmingly the comments have been positive and supportive from all genders. In times like these, it gives me hope for the future.
Congratulations to Kim Ng for not only breaking the glass ceiling, but for shattering it. I have complained at length about the broken glass in my house from indoor baseball accidents, but today I’m not complaining about the shattered glass ceiling.