EFMD encourages and rewards innovative and impactful cases in management development each year. This year again brought an exceptional variety of winning cases across various industries. We interviewed the winners to find out more about their motivation, inspiration and significant challenges.
The WNBA: The League Betting on Women
What was the inspiration for your case?
I am a huge basketball fan in general and of the WNBA specifically, and knowing what I did about the league already, I just thought it was at an interesting crossroads that might make for an interesting case study. They seemed poised to be taking a leap as a sports league in the U.S., starting to overcome all sorts of player relations issues and certainly plenty of barriers in the court of public opinion that had been holding it back for its first 25 years of existence. And all of these issues, to me at least, belonged as part of a broader conversation around gender roles and inequities in our society that really made me want to develop a case study around the WNBA.
What were the major challenges in designing the case?
One significant challenge is that most sports leagues are very private with any concrete financial data, and the WNBA is certainly no exception, for obvious reasons. I really had to piece together bits of information from here and there to craft an accurate depiction of the league’s performance, while still acknowledging some of the ambiguity around this depiction. The other is writing about potentially controversial gender issues in a way that clearly lays out the underlying societal dynamics holding back women’s sports while remaining relatively objective and avoiding anything that might overstate this narrative.
In what ways do you believe the case could impact society and business in the future?
Well, I hope it encourages anyone who reads it to rethink their attitudes towards women’s sports (or women in music or literature or any other corner of society they care about) and perhaps embrace some more contributions from women that they may have dismissed or ignored previously. Beyond that, what’s great about the WNBA during the time of this case is that they were (and still are) figuring out in real-time the full set of accommodations and benefits required to address the diverse needs of its female employee base. These women just wanted to be treated fairly for their considerable talents, but “fair” to them was different or included different components than traditional (i.e., male-dominated) models of collective bargaining agreements in sports. I think a lot of businesses are coming to the realisation that they have been overlooking the needs of many of their employees for a long time and are going back to the drawing board in an attempt to remedy that.
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More information about the 2021 EFMD Case Writing Competition can be found on the EFMD Case Writing Competition page. Please visit The Case Centre’s webpage to access the collection of the winning cases.