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JWS CEO Haley Rosen on building the women’s sports ecosystem

Basketball players in court/ JWS

Just Women’s Sports founder Haley Rosen stopped by the Boardroom’s Out of Office podcast to talk with Rich Kleiman about her background in sports and how JWS came to be. 

The two discuss how the premature conclusion of Rosen’s athletic career led her to realize how difficult it was to follow women’s sports as a fan. 

“That was a really weird time, because I think on a personal level I was watching my dreams fall apart. That’s emotional and hard to accept,” Rosen says. “On the other side, that whole experience is what led me to starting Just Women’s Sports.”

After retiring due to injury, Rosen followed in the footsteps of her Stanford peers and got a job working at a startup in tech. When she realized the opportunity that existed to cover women’s sports through Instagram, she jumped at it. Despite not having a background in social, Rosen grabbed the name Just Women’s Sports and started ripping highlights. Soon, the account started to explode. 

“It was super validating that I’m not the only one that wants this,” Rosen says. “[People] want the highlights and want to know what’s going on.” 

Copyright infringement led to the account being temporarily suspended, but Rosen used that time to figure out what, exactly, Just Women’s Sports could be.  

“Everything you see on the men’s side, it’s gotta exist on the women’s side,” Rosen tells Kleiman. “Someone’s just gotta go build it.”

Rosen and company decided to launch a newsletter in January 2020 and build the company from there. As the company grew and gained momentum, they encountered serious skepticism around the long-term viability of women’s sports. Then the pandemic hit. 

“I actually think, as horrible as the pandemic has been, in the lane of women’s sports it’s offered a lot of opportunity,” Rosen says. “When sports slowed down and the NWSL was the first league back, and then the WNBA was playing without a lot of noise, we saw people give these leagues a real chance.”

“We were fortunate to have a similar sort of opportunity as a brand.”

Rosen acknowledges that the change isn’t going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to be in one fell swoop. Little things, like hearing people debate the WNBA draft, are signs of serious and lasting change as the audience for women’s sports continues to expand. 

“There is this post Title IX generation of women that have grown up playing sports that want to watch the game that they know,” Rosen says, adding that whatever’s happened in the past in regards to coverage doesn’t matter. It’s about focusing on the future. 

“There’s a new demographic that wants [women’s sports coverage]. Right now, they’re hyper-fragmented. They’re following their favorite teams, or leagues, or their favorite athletes. There’s no ecosystem pulling that all together to build the world. That’s why we exist, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

As women’s sports continue to grow and find their audience, Rosen is adamant that the surrounding coverage has to grow as well. At present, only 4% of sports coverage is dedicated to women’s sports. 

“We’ve gotta get hyped around women’s sports. It’s not [just] about ‘support,’” she says. “Sports are huge, but if we don’t treat women’s sports like sports, and we don’t cover these women through an athletic lens, we’re doing them a disservice.”

You can listen to Rosen’s full appearance on the Out of Office podcast here.