Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Empowering women empowers sports

Haley Agauyo

San Antonio FC held a “Women’s Empowerment Night” panel at Toyota Field featuring three people involved in organizations in San Antonio in honor of Women’s History Month: Elena Wells, Marina Alderete Gavito and Jessica Lizardo. The three shared stories about what brought them to the roles they have today and offered advice about how to get more women involved in the sports industry. The goal of the panel was to inspire others to take on leadership roles, especially in sports. 

Wells currently holds two roles, vice president of National Events for San Antonio Sports and executive director for the 2025 NCAA Men’s Final Four, which will be held in San Antonio from April 4-7, 2025. Gavito was elected to City Council last June and is a representative for District 7 and Lizardo is the executive director for the south region of Special Olympics Texas. 

“I think being in a sporting organization that’s largely led by women is a rarity,” Wells said of San Antonio Sports. “I went to UTSA. The athletic director at the time was Lynn Hickey, she had just become one of the first Division I, or one of the very few Division I, female athletic directors across the country. So just seeing them in those roles really impacted me and helped break through those cultural norms to show me that I could have a pathway in sports.”

In an industry such as sports, people need to defy gender stereotypes and take on leadership roles to increase representation. According to Sports Business, “Women hold positions of responsibility in between 10 and 20 percent of the total positions in the sports industry field.”

“I had to get really comfortable being uncomfortable,”

— Gavito said.

Encouraged by male colleagues, Gavito moved up the corporate ladder in the tech industry. Despite not working in sports, she is a pillar of the San Antonio community and works in a majority female-led city council. As Gavito’s work is in a male-dominated industry, she knows how difficult it can be for women to get their foot in the door or even want to take that step in the first place.

“I had to get really comfortable being uncomfortable,” Gavito said. “I found a lot of growth in helping others with salary negotiation, in particular, because it is nerve-racking; you’re having to go prove your value and ask for more, and you have to be assertive, right? There’s no other way. You can’t ask kindly. So coaching a lot of other females to have those conversations and to put it out there and not apologize for it was helpful to me and others.”

Advocating for others is no new feat for these women. Wells shared that she is always looking to give people, especially women, an opportunity to work and move up in the sporting business. Lizardo was encouraged to take on her role for the sole reason of advocacy. 

“Working at Special Olympics and still being able to advocate for those individuals with disabilities to empower themselves and show them that they can be more than what they are has been fantastic,” Lizardo said. “I think that I’ve been able to use those tools and resources that I’ve learned from my mentors and their guidance in order to empower other women. They see what I’m doing and if I can just highlight their successes and tell them they’re doing a great job, ultimately, they will grow and be able to aspire to [achieve] their goals that they’ve set for themselves.”

Women can impact the sports world in amazing ways that only serve to benefit the industry as a whole. After all, SAFC went on to win for the first time this season during Women’s Empowerment Night.

If you are looking to get involved in sports, email The Paisano at [email protected], or check out the San Antonio Sports website for any internships and volunteer opportunities they provide.

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About the Contributor
Haley Aguayo
Haley Aguayo, Assistant Sports Editor
Haley (she/her) is a senior at UTSA who is majoring in digital communications and minoring in marketing and will be graduating in December 2024. She joined The Paisano in the spring of 2023 and primarily writes for the sports section. Haley has since become the assistant sports editor at The Paisano. After she graduates, she hopes to work in sports journalism or do in-house marketing for a professional sports team.

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