The overall percentage of women in the league office is a little over 41%.
Within the Cleveland Browns organization, the field is even broader, double the league average in coaching, and roughly a third higher on the football operations side.
When Jenner Tekancic was hired by the Cleveland Browns, the team had just returned from Baltimore. the new stadium was still under construction and the number of women working anywhere near the field was barely visible.
Graduating from Ohio University, Jenner was offered what turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime.
Hired by the team 25 years ago, this mother of two now is the Vice President of Community Relations, the same department where she started as an intern.
As Jenner explains, her path in football wasn’t always apparent to those around her.
“I remember speaking with someone and they’re like, what’s your major? And I said sports sciences. And they said what are you going to do in sports? You’re a female. And I’m like, thanks! Really appreciate that vote of confidence.”
She never allowed that doubt to kill her drive.
“That almost inspired me not to give up on what my dreams were and get into the sports industry that I really longed to be in.”
Back then women in football were not prevalent.
In fact, in 2004, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport gave the NFL a “D+” for gender in its annual report card.
Fast forward to 2022, 41.3% of NFL employees were women.
Within the Browns organization, they have assumed high-level positions, finding hard work and determination paying off.
Jenner reflects on how things have changed over the years, saying, “I look around the room and sometimes it’s only females in the room, in the meetings and I’m talking about double-digit meetings with people in attendance. Then there are those times when I’m the only female in the room as well.”
She describes the culture in Berea as unmatched, learning from owner Dee Haslam, working with second-in-command, Catherine Raiche who became assistant General Manager earlier this year, and celebrating as former co-worker, Dawn Aponte was promoted to help head football operations at the NFL.
As Jenner puts it, “Everyone wants to see the next person really rise to the top and do great.”
And each one of these women is happy to lead the way for those who follow.
One of those rising stars is Hannah Lee, the Browns Youth Football Coordinator and a driving force behind girls’ flag football in Northeast Ohio.
She talks about what brought her to this point.
“I wanted to play football when I was younger and I was told, it’s a boy’s sport. Even, I wanted to be a kicker and they said, no it’s a boys’ sport.”
When Hannah joined the Browns three years ago, girls’ flag was practically non-existent. There were two teams, Mentor and Lake Catholic.
This past spring, 30 participated when the Browns hosted the Northeast Ohio Girls’ High School Flag Football Championship Tournament at Browns Stadium.
As Hannah explains, “It’s growing at a rapid pace.”
That pace is only picking up and Hannah has a front-row seat.
She takes pride in saying, “These girls are setting the standard of what girls’ flag looks like and what young women and females can do in sports” … “They are really changing the game, and they’re being trailblazers.”
Along the way, Hannah is passing on what she has learned.
She says, “For me, I try to focus on pulling as I climb.”
One of her mentors is Browns’ assistant wide receivers coach, Callie Brownson, who led the US Women’s Tackle Football Team to gold in Finland last year.
“When I first started, Callie was that person I looked up to and kind of was that first person was like, okay, females can work in football. They can work in the NFL.”
Hannah enjoys setting that example for girls in Ohio, showing them,
“You can work in sports but you can also play sports and play it at a really high level.”
So the next time you look at those men on the football field, realize that there is a roster full of women behind them.
Jenner says, “I think that what we’re doing is creating the new norm, right? The more you see females on the field, in the office, in sports, in the NFL, at the Women’s Forum, the more normal it becomes.”
Hannah happily says with a smile, “You can do pretty much anything that the boys can do.”