"I think when people ask what's the business case for diversity, I think it's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, without a shadow of a doubt here."
That was Mori Taheripour, a Wharton professor and author with an expertise in negotiation, diversity and inclusion, along with player engagement and development. Taheripour was the moderator for a panel discussion at the NFL Women's Careers in Football Forum Wednesday afternoon that included Tampa Bay Buccaneers Co-Owner and President of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, General Manager Jason Licht and Head Coach Bruce Arians. The topic was, 'How the Buccaneers were built' and the fact of the matter is, they were built with diversity and inclusion in mind. They are one of the most diverse staffs and front offices in the league. Nearly half of all leadership positions in the organization are held by women on the business side. They are the first team in NFL history to have all Black coordinators. They are the first team to ever have two women coaches win a Super Bowl.
That starts with Glazer Kassewitz putting an emphasis, and often times insisting, on diverse hiring options both on and off the field.
"Your landscape of ideas is so much wider when you have a diverse candidate pool, and you have so many more options to choose from so you can truly choose the best person," Glazer Kassewitz said. "And so that's been very valuable to us as an organization."
The Buccaneers place an emphasis on all levels of football development for girls and women, starting at the youth levels. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation launched a first-of-its-kind free flag football program and series of clinics geared toward young girls who want to play flag football. That continues into the high school level, where the Bucs sponsor the largest sanctioned girls flag football tournament in the nation at their very own facility. And now, the support extends into the college ranks, with the creation the Bucs Girls in Football scholarship for female football players, tackle or flag, who want to pursue a career in sports at a four-year accredited college.
All that representation matters – just ask Licht.
"It hits close to home," he said on Wednesday. "I have a 10-year-old daughter, who fights with her two brothers – she's bookended by an older brother and a younger brother – and they play flag football now. She signed up for football this year and has excelled playing football. She wants to be a coach someday, and no longer do you hear her brother saying well you can be a coach, it's now it's accepted that she could become a coach, because of what what's been instilled here through the Glazer family and BA especially."
Yes, Arians fits right into this culture of diversity and inclusion the Bucs have built. At the encouragement of his wife, Christine, Arians hired the first pair of full-time female coaches in league history in assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar. And for him, it isn't about them being women, it's about having all kinds of perspectives to make his staff the best it could possibly be.
"I want many, many voices and I don't want them to sound the same," said Arians about his staff of over 30 coaches, made up of young, old, male, female, career coaches and former players. "I wanted them to be different. So, when the female coaches talk, when [82-year-old offensive analyst] Tom Moore talks, when a young coach speaks up, everybody listens. We have great input from all these different voices so that we have outstanding output."
And what better output than a historic Super Bowl run and a Lombardi trophy hoisted in your own stadium? The Buccaneers have proved that diversity wins and that there are viable candidates out there that come from all creeds – and of course, genders. That's not to say there aren't differences between men and women in football, but Licht sees the differences women bring to the table as an asset.
"I've really enjoyed having the perspective of women in our building, on our staff coaching and scouting," he said. "This year, particularly, sometimes, I think women have the intuition and the ability to read people. And it's been an asset for us."
If we know as an NFL collective know that diversity breeds success, why aren't more teams following suit? What's the next step? Arians has the answer for you there, too.
"You're not getting a job unless you stick your neck out there," he said. "I'd like to continue to build this. I mean, what Lori and MJ have done, they're laying the groundwork for a lot of people.
"I told you two years ago, I didn't get enough resumes. All right, I didn't get any resumes this year, either. You're not getting hired if you don't give me a resume. Now, I don't have any jobs open, but I still want at least 10 resumes by the end of the week, so we have them on file."
The panel discussion was made possible by the fifth annual Women's Careers in Football Forum, which was held virtually this year, as part of the NFL's ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. It connected 40 women, 75% of whom are women of color, with leaders in professional football like the three aforementioned speakers from the Buccaneers. Earlier in the day Locust was also on a panel, having been a prior attendee herself. She is a prime success story from the program that aims to help women network and build relationships in the areas of coaching, scouting and football operations. Since 2017, the Forum has developed a more diverse talent pipeline in the NFL by connecting high-potential women to career opportunities in football. Over the past four years, 118 opportunities with NFL clubs have emerged, of which, Locust is one.