“Is there anybody in this world that did not come from a woman?” Laughter erupts as keynote speaker, and Toronto’s Most Influential Person, Masai Ujiri, takes the stage. Here to ring in WISE’s Be a Champion Anniversary Celebration, Ujiri immediately captivates the crowded ballroom of over 350 women and men.
Inspired by all the women in his life, his mother, wife, daughter and colleagues, Ujiri is one of Canada’s biggest champions of women on and off the court, making him the natural voice to motivate our community. After WISE National presented him with the WISE 2018 Champion Award, we are honoured to have him join us and kick off our one-year celebration in championship style.
In a male-dominated industry, Ujiri is the change agent and role model needed in business and in sport. He speaks to breaking the glass ceiling with the Raptors’ organization, growing the team from one to 14 women in his tenure to date. He takes a pause while explaining this growth and asks his female colleagues in the room to stand. His goal: to recognize, empower and thank each of them for their immense contributions. This powerful moment moves the audience, bringing many to tears.
“Women were not hired because we wanted to hire women, they were hired because they are the best at what they do, men included, and I am damn proud of that,” says Ujiri. To him, women were instrumental in bringing home the Toronto Raptors’ first-ever NBA Championship title, trophy and igniting the entire city. Masai notes it’s his goal that, “one day, there is a woman general manager in the NBA. We have to reach that.”
And when it comes to one of the most successful sports marketing campaigns in the country, does it surprise you that it was a woman who brought this to market? It shouldn’t. Ujiri highlights that the “We The North” campaign was one he wanted to hold on, until the team was ready. It was Shannon Hosford, CMO, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and Ujiri’s trusted advisor that challenged him to move on the campaign. Of course, it’s since become the country’s rallying cry, a slogan that redefined a team, a brand and the city of Toronto.
Ujiri’s message strikes a chord with attendees because women's success in business should not be front-page news or celebrated, it should be expected. WISE member, Nicole Lee notes in an interview with CBC at the event, “eventually conversations like this aren’t needed, and that it’s the norm to have successful female business leaders to look up to every day.” This is an ideology WISE hopes to echo through every event and promote countrywide.
Before leaving, Ujiri leaves attendees with words of wisdom:
- A winning mindset is about finding a way, no matter the odds. Always compete and conquer.
- A great man can only shine with a great woman beside him.
- Diversity of thought is integral to success. Women in the Raptors’ organization push decisions forward to foster a winning culture.
- Women are smart, talented, thoughtful and capable. Give them opportunity and they’ll flourish and thrive.
Check back next week to learn more about our panelists, Ujiri’s female leadership team - Sarah Chan, Manager, Africa Scouting, Shannon Hosford, Chief Marketing Officer, MLSE, and Teresa Resch, VP, Basketball Operations & Player Development, Toronto Raptors to talk about finding their voice, goals for the future, career development and more.
If you are interested in attending future engagements or want to become a WISE Toronto member, please visit our Membership and Events page for more information.