Does the NFL Need More Female Scouts?

ESPN has an interesting, if somewhat general, piece about whether the NFL could use more female scouts to avoid groupthink in the draft, and to help teams avoid players who might end up making a team atmosphere toxic, rather than helping a squad cohere:

Women, on the other hand, are much less likely to have blinders when it comes to big moves. They also do a better job placing choices in context. In football terms, female scouts might have seen that Vince Young, for all his awesome talent, was not a good fit with the team, coaching staff or scheme in Tennessee.

Another place where the NFL could really use a woman’s touch is with the impossible task of predicting how a newly minted 21-year-old millionaire will behave once he hits the league. Most teams use personal interviews to gauge a potential player’s intangibles — work ethic, leadership, motivation, teamwork — but the results would likely be more reliable if women were leading this process. Shrira says studies show that women are intuitively better at discerning and exploring a candidate’s character. Adds Spencer, “This is the unique dimension women would add to the draft: getting to the absolute heart and soul of a player.”

A lot of the piece is based in general business psychology, rather than in the track records of the very few women (like Linda Bogdan, pictured here) who have gotten a say in NFL. But that research and the evidence of other successful businesses do make a compelling case that any organization might want to consider diversity not simply for its public image, but for its bottom line. Different perspectives can bring not just different ways of making decisions, but different costs and potential problems to light. Myra Kraft famously convinced the Patriots to release Christian Peter after the team drafted the man even though he had a horrible record of violence against women. A scouting corps that included more women might be more likely to weigh past records of such allegations more seriously, not just because abusing women is bad, but because players who get in trouble outside of the stadium lose playing time and mental focus.

There’s no question that it won’t be easy to get more women in the scouting and executive ranks. It’s not like there are no women who are substantially interested in football, but it is a specialization beyond general business acumen. And if, as the article points out, women tend to get powerful positions in NFL teams only if they’re related to the owner, even if they perform well, that’ll likely be a hurdle to convincing other teams that they got their on their own abilities, no matter how sterling those abilities are. Allegations of nepotism tend to stick, even if they’re utterly unfounded. I’m not sure what the way in will turn out to be. But, rooting interests aside, I’d applaud whatever team decided to seek new insight and get some women in the mix. Neither men nor women are collectively perfect decision-makers. But new eyes and new perspectives are rarely a bad idea, and it would be interesting to see how female scouts challenge the existing consensus about what’s valuable in the NFL, and in other sports.