How the WNBA commissioner sees live sports continuing after the pandemic

May 26, 2020, 9:30 AM UTC
Stuart Isett for Fortune

On the latest episode of “Leadership Next,” Fortune’s podcast about how business leadership is evolving, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert joins cohosts Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt to talk live sports and people-focused leadership in the age of the coronavirus. 

Athletics as an industry have been temporarily halted as a result of the pandemic, but Engelbert and her team at the WNBA have been working overtime to engage the fans they already have and bring in new ones. In April, the league held its first-ever virtual draft from Engelbert’s home, broadcast on ESPN, and brought in the biggest audience the event had seen in 16 years. 

“We need to look at the opportunities in this crisis,” she said. “And I think there is an opportunity to engage fans in a different way.” 

She said the draft’s success and the continued pause in live sporting events has the WNBA thinking of ways to get fans involved remotely, even after sports are back in full force. This could include the gamification of the league’s games via app, which would arm the league with more data to further engage its audience. 

Around the nine-minute mark, Murray asked Engelbert about her transition from being the CEO of Deloitte—the first woman to hold the role—to becoming the commissioner of the WNBA. Her answer: She was shocked at the myriad similarities. 

“Sports is big business,” she said, comparing leading Deloitte to leading the league. 

Murray then asked McGirt, who has many years on the inclusion beat under her belt, what the business world can do to bring more women into the leadership fold. In the recently released Fortune 500, only around 7% of the listed companies’ CEOs are women.

McGirt recommends listening to women and understanding their many different experiences, as well as carrying out equity audits to find the problem areas for women in corporations. She also suggests that a cultural shift needs to happen, in which business has to “rethink central casting.” That means reassessing what a member of the C-suite looks like, as well as what experience and expertise they have. It can’t be business as usual if change is going to come.