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Raptors speaker series She The North hopes to empower women in sports

The series was launched last week as part of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's women leadership forum.

Teresa Resch — second from left, next to Raptors president Masai Ujiri — is one of the people organizing the She The North speaker series.

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Teresa Resch — second from left, next to Raptors president Masai Ujiri — is one of the people organizing the She The North speaker series.

The Toronto Raptors are setting up big scores, both on the hardwood and in the front office.

A new speaker series, She The North, looks to empower women in the sports industry. It was launched last week as part of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's women leadership forum — an effort to inspire young girls in the community, create an inclusive culture within the organization and share stories of women's impact in leadership positions.

"Sports and entertainment is still a male-dominated industry," said Teresa Resch, the Raptors' vice-president of basketball operations and player development. "It is really important to demonstrate the wide variety of roles that women have within the Raptors team."

This past summer alone, team president Masai Ujiri brought four women into leadership roles. They include manager of player development Shelby Weaver, physiotherapist Amanda Joaquim, director of communications Jennifer Quinn and data analyst Brittni Donaldson. That brought the number of women within the Raptors' front office to 11, which is "pretty unheard of in the industry," said Resch.

"It's still not equal but it's a larger number than what a lot of teams have. So telling that story of success is important," she said, adding that men also have to be part of the conversation to encourage diversity in sports. "Everybody has to feel like they're welcome and there's a seat for them at the table. That's what empowering women is."

The NBA has made great strides in encouraging women to join leadership ranks. Most notably, the San Antonio Spurs have a woman in the role of assistant coach (Becky Hammon), and last month the Atlanta Hawks hired Michelle Leftwich to be the team's vice-president of salary cap administration. However, there's still no women in the general manager, team president or head coach roles across the entire league of 30 teams.

Resch said the leadership positions already filled by women show that they're capable of excelling in jobs they didn't get an opportunity to do in the past.

"We want to win a championship here," she said. "Ultimately what we're trying to do is to build advocates who advance women so they're part of this process."

She The North's next event will take place in January, and the series will become bi-monthly thereafter.

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