287: Advocating For Inclusivity In Hockey - with Meghan Duggan
Meghan is a native of Danvers, Massachusetts who has achieved sustained success at all levels of her hockey career in international and collegiate play. Meghan graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she majored in biology and was a member of the women's hockey team where she won three national championships. She went on to be an Olympic and professional athlete after he college. With Team USA she went three Olympic medals, including the first Olympic gold in 20 years where she led the US Olympic hockey team as Captain. As a member of the US Women's National Hockey Team since 2007, Meghan won seven IIHF Women's World Championships.
A major topic in today's world is diversity and inclusion, can you tell our listeners how you decided to take a leader leadership role in this space?
For me, I think about a lot of different factors in my life, and kind of in the world, in general, that led me towards making this part of my everyday. In general, all of us right now are eager to be a part of a world or a company or an organization that is more diverse and more inclusive and to do that we need to seek systemic change. That's a change in behavior, culture, attitudes and we all know that there's a lot of challenges that lie within seeing those changes. For me, my passion and commitment towards all of this started back in 2017, when I was able, alongside my teammates to lead a successful strike by our national team against USA hockey, which is our national governing body of hockey at the time, for gender-equitable treatment for women in the sport of hockey, and in our program. That was a long battle, we learned a lot, we discussed changes privately with USA hockey behind the scenes that we wanted to see and to make in our program and we weren't able to make any progress with them so we came up with a very public boycott. It's quite a long story, but we were able to make some truly systemic change in our program and while we're still working on those changes every single day, it amplified the movement and all of that in my mind and my teammates’ mine. So from then, I committed to helping diversify hockey in general, whether that's for opening it up to more women or more members of the BIPOC community or LGBTQ plus community, that's very important to me. But also, seeking out other opportunities to help underrepresented groups in all aspects of life and to truly make a more diverse and inclusive world that all of us are eager to be a part of.
As a board member for USA hockey, what is it that you hope to achieve?
Going off of the question that we just discussed, one of the biggest things that I want to achieve that I'm, I'm working towards every day and in a few different capacities, whether that's in my board seat, or the different subcommittees and sections I sit on at USA hockey, or being a part of the NHL player inclusion committee, where we're working to diversify elite hockey, or being a board member with the Women's Sports Foundation as well. All of those kind of have a similar goal, in my mind, and the first is just to diversify hockey. As I alluded to in the answer to my first question, when we think about hockey, traditionally, I hate to say it, but you think about hockey traditionally, and underrepresented groups are anyone that is not white, straight, men. That is sadly what people associate with hockey. So in a lot of those positions that I'm in, what I want to do is make sure that underrepresented groups are welcomed, and are introduced to the sport of hockey. Hockey changed my life in so many ways, I was the only girl growing up when I was playing and but, I didn't let that stop me. I had really supportive parents, I had supportive coaches and teams, and I was given an earned opportunities. But there's a lot of people that don't feel welcome in hockey or don't feel that it's a sport for them. Because I love it so much, because it changed my life in a million ways, I want to make sure that every single person, has access to hockey, and loves it, can play at an elite level, or a youth level, or whatever they want. Those are definitely things that I'm personally working towards every day to try to make happen.
I know that you've recently entered this wonderful world of motherhood, how has that impacted what it is that you're trying to achieve, and the mission that you're working towards?
First of all, being a parent is the greatest thing in the world. I don't remember my life before my son George was born. I've had so many opportunities in my life to go cool places are playing Olympic gold medal games, win gold medals, meet all these wonderful people, and none of that hold a candle two to being a mom and getting to see and watch my son grow every day, it's the best. But with that comes the responsibility of raising a child and the next generation in say the social climate that we're in right now. I think it just encourages me more to work towards a better future for him, and whatever that looks like, whether it's in sport, whether it's in business, whether it's in just creating a, as we've talked about a more diverse and inclusive environment, and just kinder human beings. So I think about that, and then the responsibility truly of raising what will be a white man in society and making sure that he understands the importance of being inclusive and not thinking that he, he owns the world. So I think about it in a lot of different ways. It's the greatest thing I've ever done. I think it inspires me more, to want to be more in the work that I'm doing right now. Also, it inspires me to want to enter into and do a little bit of work in the motherhood space and what that means and finding ways to support moms and dads and parents because you realize, when you become a parent that there are a lot of things about it that are difficult as well, whether that's maternity leave policies or childcare and things like that. So trying to learn a little bit about that space as well.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
It’s so great that this is the topic that you're focusing on because the word networking can be very daunting. For me, I've had the opportunity to be a part of some great networking and athlete and career education seminars through the USOC which I'm incredibly thankful for and have given me some tools to help set me up to network better at certain times. So I've tried to take the scary part of networking away with some of those tools. I would say when I think back to one of my most successful or favorite networking story, I think back to a time when I didn't even know I was networking and that's probably why it came off and why it ended up being more of a, a friendship and a relationship. But I was asked to do this event shortly after the 2018 Olympics in Telluride, Colorado. I was doing a one-time sponsor appearance at a cool event. It was at this awesome resort and it was in conjunction with Jaguar Land Rover, the vehicle. So it was this outside event, they had all of these dealership owners and people from the company there. They were celebrating them in this really fun Winter Olympic themed event. It was kind of a small, intimate group and I was able to meet just so many fantastic people. We played hockey outside, we played curling outside, which I was terrible at, we had dinner that night, there was karaoke, it was very casual and intimate, just a celebration. I was there an athlete representative to bring my gold medal and get excited and get the attendees excited about \that Winter Olympic spirit. I ended up making a connection with the guy who has become a friend whose name is Joe Eberhardt. Joe is one of the CEOs of Jaguar Land Rover in North America and we just ended up hitting it off and becoming friends and following up with each other. I would be checking on him and his family and right after that, he went skiing and ended up tearing his ACL on both of his knees so we were talking about rehab and things like that. He's just an awesome guy that I would consider a mentor and someone I've kept in touch with and respect a lot. Through that connection, I was able to become a global ambassador for Jaguar Land Rover and do some unbelievable work with them when it comes to women's empowerment at different events I've spoken at, on panels with them, or with diversity and inclusion events, being a member of the LGBT community. At the time I didn't know all of that would come from it, but it was just a great casual conversation where I was being myself, and I was able to create and continue this great relationship.
As someone who's traveled globally, and I'm sure you've met millions of people. How do you best nurture these relationships that you've created?
I think we all have a hand up a little bit right now with the world being virtual, and being able to get in touch with and get in front of anyone at any point and I think that can often help us. But I would say the best way that I try to keep things going is I truly try to be my authentic self. I don't try to be someone that I'm not in my communications with my network, or mentors, or potential business professionals that I want to put myself in front of. I really tried to connect when it feels right or when it feels organic and don't want to doesn't. It sounds a little cliche, again, but it's what worked for me. I'm also a person that truly acts a lot of time off of gut and instinct. That being said, I've found myself in situations where I'm experienced a lot of different coincidences, or things happen for a reason. That's who I am a that's kind of what's allowed me to create and keep wonderful relationships in my life. I try to be open and honest about where I'm at, or what's going on and to be inclusive to whoever I'm speaking with, as well. I just try to keep it organic and authentic and that seems to work for me.
What advice would you offer to someone who's looking to grow their network?
I would say to educate yourself on what you want to grow into, and who you want to talk to and learn a little bit about the backgrounds of people, you want to add into your network like what they do, what's important to them, what they're passionate about. I feel, in addition to being myself and sharing my authentic self, I think taking an interest in what other people are doing, or what else is out there when you're searching for what's next or a new connection I always find that I learned something new and inspires me to want to do something else, or get involved in something else, just by listening to other people. Just by understanding and educating myself a little bit on what other people are passionate about. I find it inspires me and makes me think about things in a different way which helps me grow my network and become involved in other things.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I think the biggest thing I would tell my 20-year-old self is to try not to strive for perfection. I'm a very type-A personality and I've learned a lot through my ups and downs in my hockey career and in growth in my leadership about too often trying to be perfect or try not to make mistakes. I think whether it's getting older or making more mistakes or becoming a mom or whatever it is, I've tried to make myself realize that you can't be perfect all the time. Mistakes are where we grow, that's where those challenges are, that's where we find opportunities. So a lot of times in my hockey career, my professional career I was gripping my stick too tight, right? We all say that in hockey and in wanting something so bad and not wanting to make a mistake. In doing so, I would have different blind spots, or I would put myself in a bad position. So, I would say that's definitely what I would tell my 20-year-old self: Make mistakes and see challenges as opportunities because that's where you'll grow. Who are any of us if we don't face challenges? It's impossible so finding ways to embrace the challenges and not seek out perfection is something I've learned, but I wish I knew it when I was younger.
We're all familiar with the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you could do it within six degrees?
The person that I would love to connect with, at this point right now would be Kamala Harris. Do I think I could do it within six degrees? I really do think that I could. I think it would take some serious degrees of people, but I think that I could do it, and I would start that journey with Billie Jean King because, to me, she's the Alpha Dog in women's sports. She could maybe eventually lead me down the path of like, connecting with females in all the other industries. Right now, Kamala Harris is the Alpha Dog in politics so that's where I would start, and I would love to connect with her.
What final advice would you like to offer with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would say be patient with yourself. I find myself sometimes waking up in the middle of the night, or randomly, if I'm having a bad day thinking, I'm not doing enough, or I need to do X, or I need to put myself here, get myself in touch with this person. I think sometimes just being patient with myself, and showing myself a little bit of grace and respect, and honoring the things that I have done or that I'm working towards helps to slow me down. For me, that's chasing around my son and playing with him and reading books to him because there's beauty in that, too. So I think being patient with yourself is really important. Things aren't going to happen overnight. When I say be patient with yourself, obviously life and networking, and, and growing requires a lot of hard work as well, but we all need to take care of ourselves along the way too.
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