ESPN executive Christine Driessen, GABELLI ’77, has been named the third most powerful woman in sports by Forbes magazine. Driessen took a top spot on a diverse list that includes 25 athletes, team owners, media executives, and other sports powerhouses.
As executive vice president and CFO of ESPN, Driessen runs all of the multimedia entertainment company’s financial operations worldwide. She’s a key negotiator in the company’s major programming rights deals, including Major League Baseball, Monday Night Football, college football bowl games, and U.S. Open Tennis. And she was instrumental in the launches of ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNews, and espnW, a digital channel that caters to women as athletes and fans.Driessen has pushed for robust coverage of women’s sports throughout the network, including a recent eight-year commitment to the WNBA. She has also championed the role of women at the company, starting a forum for female executives and insisting that women get nominated for more awards and invited to sit on external panels.
“I’ve attempted to be a role model for women in this company as a beacon of light to demonstrate that you can have a great career and a demanding career. But also have a family and work-life balance and give back to the people you work with and give them the opportunity to develop and grow,” she told Forbes in 2013.
Her efforts are needed, according to the Dec. 2 article that accompanies the list. Forbes notes that the women they named still “represent a true minority in a business dominated by men,” adding that less than 8.5 percent of the combined NCAA Division I athletics departments and Big Four professional sports clubs are led by women. All the more reason, the article says, why these women “should be celebrated for their ability to overcome any number of obstacles to break barriers and rise to positions of power.”
The Forbes honor is not the first time Driessen has been recognized for her leadership in the industry. In 2013, Sports Illustrated placed her at number three on its list of the 10 most influential women in sports. She was named Woman of the Year in 2014 by Women in Telecommunications, and Variety named her a Woman of Impact in 2010.
A trustee fellow at Fordham, Driessen came to the Rose Hill Gym in 2014 to talk to the women’s basketball team just after they won the program’s first-ever Atlantic-10 championship. She gave them a pep talk before their first-round matchup in the NCAA tournament and offered some career advice.
“Never sell yourself short or take yourself out of the running,” she said.