How AT&T's 'She's Connected' Program Supports Women in Sports and Business

Stacey Marx explains the initiative, which begins with WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike

AT&T on Tuesday launched the She's Connected by AT&T program, deepening its commitment to women in sports and women in business. The initiative will include documentary-style video campaigns shared across WarnerMedia's linear, digital and social platforms through 2021.

The content series begins with a video profiling Chiney Ogwumike, professional women's basketball player for the WNBA's LA Sparks and an ESPN personality.

Below, Stacey Marx, president of AT&T National Business & Channels, explains more about the She's Connected by AT&T program.

What is the She's Connected program?

Stacey Marx: AT&T has a long and storied history of being committed to equality, and through partnerships like ours with the WNBA and WNBA Changemakers and the creation of AT&T Unlocked Games, we see a lot of amazing work supporting women. I'm also super excited about our work and being personally involved with #SeeHer and #SeeHer in Sports. A perfect example is Shiz Suzuki, assistant vice president of sponsorships and experiential marketing at AT&T, who participated in the recent Clio Sports Awards. She has done an incredible job using our sponsorships to tangibly make an impact on the individuals, groups, organizations and communities we work with. 

That commitment to tangible impact through technology and connectivity is the heart of She's Connected by AT&T. The content series and program is another way we are going beyond a logo to support four world-class athletes and multidimensional businesswomen.

AT&T will be working with Chiney Ogwumike (WNBA, LA Sparks, ESPN personality), Alex Morgan (co-captain US Women's National Team, author and founder of a media company) Sue Bird (four-time WNBA champion with Seattle Storm, four-time Olympic gold medalist and activist) and Maria Fassi (LPGA, AT&T athlete and aspiring philanthropist)—to not only bring awareness to their stories through a documentary-style video campaign produced by award-winning Courageous Studios, brand studio for CNN and HLN, but also power their dreams, businesses and endeavors with our AT&T Small Business products and services.   

Chiney's story launched on Dec. 15. The other women's stories will be shared throughout 2021. 

How does AT&T Small Business fit into the program?

It's been amazing to get to know more about the ambitions, dreams and "side hustles" each of the athletes are pursuing—on top of their grueling training and competition commitments and responsibilities.

They are also joining an incredible community of women business owners. As of 2017, more than 11 million U.S. businesses were owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.

While winning titles and Olympic medals, these amazing women are also identifying the right technology investments that will keep their businesses competitive. This balance is a common concern across SMBs as they look to balance the need to compete with peers and larger enterprise against the investments required.

That's where AT&T Small Business comes in. We're working closely with each athlete to identify technologies that are tailored to their business so they can focus on pursuing their dreams—on-and-off-the court, pitch or course.  

For Chiney specifically, we are providing her with a suite of services she can use to better manage the many arms of her brand, including:

• AT&T Office@Hand, a cloud-based communication solution that provides all the features of a traditional business phone system without the complexity. 
• AT&T Wireless Broadband: 5G/5G+ and LTE wireless data connection service that can augment or replace a traditional wired internet service for business-critical applications.
• AT&T Business Wi-Fi with Cisco Meraki: Wi-Fi and Wireless Local Area Network (LAN) service that provides a highly secure, managed public and private Wi-Fi network. 

Why is this program important? 

Women athletes are multi-hyphenated and often out of necessity given a current disparity in visibility, access and opportunities for professional women athletes, when compared to male counterparts. 

I'm sad to share that today, 40 percent of girls do not participate in sports compared to 25 percent of boys. This is in part due to lack of awareness. Just 4 percent of sports coverage is devoted to women's sports and 0.4 percent of sponsorship dollars; even though 85 percent of sports fans, women and men, want to see more women's sports. 

There is no "off season" for a professional athlete who is also a mother, business owner, entrepreneur, philanthropist and an activist. This also rings true for women in business, who are pressed to balance the million-and-one things needed to run a successful business, manage employees and enjoy their personal lives and goals. This has only been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has been a huge disruptor to the women in business and sport and especially working mothers.    

According to a new study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the health of women-owned businesses. The survey said that the number of female business owners who ranked their business's overall health as "somewhat or very good" fell 13 points during the pandemic, from 60 percent in January to 47 percent in July 2020. By contrast, the number of male business owners reporting a "good" business health status only fell five points in the same period (67 percent to 62 percent).

We know that technology plays a key role in making business growth accessible; the Harvard Business Review published research that shows access to technology is a key factor in speeding up global gender equality. Through the AT&T Small Business services we are providing to these women, we're doing our part to not only power their businesses, but to also inspire and empower a future of women business owners. 

What unique challenges do women athletes face as business owners? What challenges do women in business face?

Supporting women athletes and women in business are near and dear to my heart. As a lifelong athlete, and a mother of an Olympic-hopeful daughter, I have a personal stake in the mission to elevate women's sports—from compensation to visibility, fair treatment in the media and helping women in sports who are also small business owners.

I know firsthand from my own journey playing sports and through my daughter the abundance of life lessons we learn through sports. These are skills that we will bring with us into our career and throughout the rest of our lives. It really is about so much more than the game. 

But as I mentioned earlier, women athletes and women in business often have a very long list of roles they play. 

A current literature review (2011–2019) on women's entrepreneurial initiatives found that women entrepreneurs continue to face the "multitasking whirlpool," along with the lack of financial resources, marketing skills and support services, including poor access to business networks, technology and digital markets.  

There's a lot of work to be done to help find balance and parity, but progress is being made.

For example, the WNBA signed a historic CBA this year, and women in business are demonstrating incredible resilience and adaptation to Covid-19 by shifting their businesses online. According to a Facebook small-business survey, women owners were 15 percent more likely to make more than half of their sales through online channels. They were also three times as likely to start or increase using digital tools during the pandemic. 

AT&T is committed to using its scale and brand to elevate and accurately portray women and girls in marketing, advertising, media, sports and entertainment. This includes our work to see girls and women accurately represented in the content we create, treated equitably in the businesses and sports they're passionate about (as fans, players, coaches and managers), and given access to the  products and services they need to thrive in the small businesses and entrepreneurial endeavors they lead.  

In what other ways is AT&T showing up for small businesses?

In today's Covid-19 world, small businesses should be thinking about what people need right now and what's working, then amplify it. Invest in the technology that will enable easy and simple processes for your customers, whether it's eCommerce or technology to enable ordering through an app. Make it easy for them to contact you if they have questions or need help with a purchase.

Ultimately, running a successful small or medium-sized business continues to be about making it effortless and connecting virtually with customers. We are now more dependent on technology for that, so the momentum we're seeing for SMBs to adopt digital tools will be here to stay long after the pandemic is over. 

We recently launched free step-by-step guides to help small businesses understand how to virtualize their business to create a 24/7 selling cycle and use the power of digital to meet customers where they feel most comfortable. Our playbooks provide actionable steps for small businesses needing to pivot amid the pandemic. They include detailed guidance to help businesses harness the power of e-commerce, digital marketing and social media, and cybersecurity: offering a blueprint for how small businesses can seize marketplace advantage with virtualized operations, workforce, workspace and customer service.

Stacey Marx is president of AT&T National Business and Channels, where she leads a team of thousands of business professionals who support 95 percent of AT&T's business customers nationwide. Focused on revolutionizing the customer experience, she supports AT&T's small and medium business customers, along with our indirect sales partners.

Stacey is an accomplished senior executive with 22 years of diverse sales and business experience, ranging from small business call centers to the largest government, education and medical customers. An expert in developing and executing innovative growth and go-to-market strategies and acquisition sales, Stacey is passionate about building excellent role model relationships with customers and constituents alike.

Prior to her current role, Stacey was senior vice president of AT&T Partner Solutions, Commercial DTV and Wholesale, where she led a team of hundreds of business professionals across the globe. 

She also served as vice president of AT&T National Business Central Region, where she managed hundreds of sales professionals responsible for all facets of the customer relationship, including mobile, wired, security and cloud solution sales, service delivery, revenue management and customer satisfaction. 

Stacey holds a master of business administration from Pepperdine University and a bachelor of science in General Business from Arizona State University. She also has an accounting certificate from Northwestern University. She resides in Allen, Texas, with her husband and daughter.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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