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Monday, August 1, 2011
Pam Gardner is a pioneer for female executives

By Whitney Holtzman

Continuing our Power Play series is Pam Gardner, who has been a trailblazer for women executives in sports. Gardner has been with the Astros since 1989, and was the first woman inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.

espnW: You're the longest-tenured female chief executive in MLB. What was the environment like for a female executive in sports when you joined the Astros in 1989?

Pam Gardner: There were a few women in some good positions in baseball, so I think the potential was there. We have a long way to go, but we've come along way since then. We need to mentor young women and spend time with them. Those of us who are in the business need to teach those who are up and coming in the field. Let's celebrate the sisterhood.

espnW: In November of 2006, you were the first female executive inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. What was that experience like for you?

PG: It was a huge honor, because there have been so many great women inducted into that Hall. We don't do it to be recognized, but it's always nice to be honored. It's humbling and gratifying to see that your work has impacted other people.

espnW: What does your job as President of Business Operations entail?

PG: Everything except what happens on the field. I'm not responsible for the player piece. I sit in on those meetings, but I'm responsible for the revenue- generating side, including public relations, marketing, community affairs, ticket sales, IT -- typical things that it takes to run a business.

espnW: So when do you sleep?

PG: Baseball is a lifestyle. It's not a job. It's different from other sports, because we have 81 home games. You spend a lot of your time at the ballpark, typically from 8 in the morning to 11 at night on game days, and we're here on weekends too. You have to love the business, and the product, or it's not for you.

espnW: You've been in your current position for eleven years. What's your proudest accomplishment during that time, and what's been the biggest challenge?

PG: My proudest accomplishment was when we acquired Minute Maid as a naming rights partner for the stadium. We had Enron as a naming rights partner when we opened the stadium in 2000, and by 2001 Enron was gone. We had to hit the pavement and find a new partner. Within six months, we'd found Minute Maid.

espnW: It sounds like your biggest accomplishment was also your biggest challenge?

PG: That's true.

espnW: In 2006, you became part of an exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, saluting women in baseball. Have you been to visit your exhibit yet and when you took this job with the Astros over 20 years ago, did you ever dream that you'd end up in the HOF?

PG: No, I never dreamed that I would. And yes, I did visit. When the owner of the Astros heard about the exhibit, he flew a few of our executives up to see it. I had never been to the Hall of Fame before. It was thoughtful and kind of him. It was really humbling.

espnW: In 2010, about 27 percent of companies had zero female executive officers, according to Catalyst. What advice do you have for women on how to become an executive in sports, and then subsequently maintain their positions for as many years as you have?

PG: Hard work and someone who gives you the opportunity will get you there. Doing the right thing will allow you to stay there.

espnW: You're surrounded by top-notch athletes on a daily basis. Are you an athlete yourself?

PG: I'm a runner. I've always done a little running and biking. When the team is home, I don't run as much. When the team is on the road, I have a little more flexibility. I'm not a morning person, so when there aren't night games, I run after work. I do it to clear my head. It's my therapy. I ran 1,400 miles last year.

espnW: You have twins, Meaghan and Coleman. How do you balance your hectic work schedule with being a mom? What advice do you have for working moms on how to have a long and successful career in the corporate world, while trying to raise children?

PG: You know what, that's hard. Women who elect to stay home have the hardest job in the world. It is much tougher than the job I have. But to balance the two [jobs] is tough. My kids are 25 years old. Meaghan always says, 'why was I the first one dropped off at the Y in the morning and the last one picked up?' On the other hand, my kids got to grow up coming to baseball games. At dinnertime, I'd run home and pick them and bring them to the stadium. They got to go to All-Star games. There are tradeoffs.

espnW: Is there a quote or motto you try to live your life by?

PG: Do the right thing. If you say that to yourself all the time, that's probably what you're going to do. I make a lot of decisions by following my gut.