Study: MLS makes ‘substantial’ D&I hiring gains


A diversity report for racial and gender hiring in Major League Soccer saw a “substantial” increase in its scores for hiring women at the team and league level after four years of declines.

Wednesday’s report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida assigned an overall B grade, with an A for racial hiring and a C for gender hiring. The report examined a range of positions at the league headquarters and within franchises using data from July covering the 2021 season.

The letter grades are almost identical to last year’s study, but the gender score stood out in particular for stopping a downward trend. That came in at 74.7 points, up from 69.9 points for the 2020 report card (a C-minus) in the league’s lowest gender score since 2007.

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The score still lags considering it as an 81 for a B as recently as 2016, but TIDES director and lead report author Richard Lapchick touted the gender turnaround — including a league-best four women as team chief executive officers/presidents — as the study’s biggest positive.

“There is still much room for improvement,” Lapchick said in an email to The Associated Press. “But for several years, it has been the gender grades that have been the most problematic in men’s professional and college sport. MLS has shown the way they can improve quickly.”

The numerical scores also increased for racial hiring (91.7, up from 90.7) and overall (83.2, up from 80.3). That came despite a methodology change that included categories for team owners/investors, which the report stated would result in slightly reduced grades in all report cards.

The league office in New York posted high grades in racial hiring (A-plus) with 40.3% of positions held by people of color and gender hiring (B-plus), with women filling 40.7% of positions. The league also earned an A-plus for diversity initiatives, including the creation of its first diversity, equity and inclusion committee, as well as the hiring of Sola Winley as the league’s first chief diversity officer in February.

At the team level, the study awarded an A-plus in racial hiring for head coaches and assistant coaches, as well as a B in racial hiring for both general managers and team vice presidents.

Gender grades were generally lower, such as a C for team professional administrative positions (30.6%), a D for team senior administration (24.1%) and an F for CEO/president roles. But numerical scores broadly increased in gender categories.

In a statement to the AP, Winley said the league views improving diversity efforts as “intrinsically linked to our aspiration to be one of the best leagues in the world.” The goal, Winley said, is to “foster an equitable culture that attracts, promotes and retains great people.”

“We are proud of the progress MLS is making in our hiring practices and our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives,” said Winley, a league executive vice president. “Change requires intentionality and action, and we take this responsibility seriously.”

TIDES issues annual report cards for professional leagues such as the NFL, NBA, WNBA and Major League Baseball, as well as hiring and graduation rates in college sports.

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