I Want Your Job: Laura Gentile, Founder Of EspnW

by Niki McGloster

Sitting across from a real-life superhero like Laura Gentile, founder and senior vice president of espnW, is a bit nerve-wrecking.

Jessica Jones, Marvel heroine of the moment, boasts superhuman strength and a taste for low-shelf whiskey. By contrast, Gentile displays noticeable confidence and a masterful grasp of multitasking.

That's all the superpower she needs.

You could argue that Gentile's ascension into the lady sports atmosphere is ripped directly from scenes of a Marvel blockbuster film. Her staff and fellow women's sports enthusiasts relentlessly battle a male-dominated industry that attempts to quiet the presence of female athleticism.

The comparison between the two women is fitting.

Before we really settle into a our chairs at Starbucks, Gentile gushes over espnW's 2015 collaboration with Marvel for IMPACT25. It's an annual list recognizing female athletes and influencers as modern-day heroines.

Though compiling the list for IMPACT25 was a lengthy process, it was only one of the million tasks in Gentile's day.

This interview is just a pit stop on her full-day press tour.

Just a few short weeks before our sit-down, Gentile was promoted to her current role. She can now add senior vice president of women's initiatives to her resume.

"We cover stories that aren't necessarily covered or as in-depth," she says. "We don't settle for how the NFL is dealing with domestic violence and how they still let a guy like Greg Hardy compete. There are questions to be asked and follow-up to be had."

The saying "with great power comes great responsibility" comes to mind as Gentile runs down a list of her daily duties.

While many of us can clock out from our nine-to-five shift, Gentile's personal and professional lives are in perfect sync.

"You have to do what you love, because it's all so intertwined. Your business and personal moments are all one [and] the same," she says.

When Gentile does have a brief moment to escape working with colleagues across ESPN -- from marketing to the business and finance side -- she unwinds with her seven-month-old and seven-year-old sons.

Long before she became the sports-driven mom and media maven she is today, Gentile noticed women's sports were of lesser importance than her beloved New York Yankees or Giants.

"Dot Richardson was this mythical figure in softball," the former Duke University field hockey star recalls. "Growing up, I'd never seen her play because she was never on TV, but I'd heard of her."

Gentile didn't just wake up one day with the singular drive to serve women, à la Jessica Jones. She sharpened her expertise as a constant student of her industry.

She first joined the marketing team at ESPN in 2003, after working as a senior partner and management supervisor at Ogilvy & Mather. Her seven years at advertising agencies in Manhattan helped her hone an expertise in brand building.

After serving as senior director of brand management in ESPN's consumer marketing department, Gentile worked as chief of staff directly under ESPN, Inc., president George Bodenheimer.

"I saw how he worked and how prepared he always was," she says of Bodenheimer. "He really studied to make his following day successful and to know what he needed to do."

It's these professional tools and behaviors, learned while climbing corporate ranks, that prepared Gentile for every promotion she's received at the major sports hub.

Since founding and developing esnpW in December 2010, Gentile has fought to cover women's sports from a fresh angle and push women's stories to the forefront, both on and off the field.

Most importantly, Gentile envisioned her current seat at the table long before it existed.

Her advice for young women set on sports media? First, merely loving the game isn't enough to get yourself in the door.

"Enjoying sports is critical, but you need an expertise," she advises. "Figure out the steps you want to take to get there and be patient along the way because sometimes you'll have to take the unconventional route."

The self-proclaimed planner emphasizes that winging it isn't an option.

"Get into the habit of planning and getting ahead of your schedule as much as possible," she says. "That way you're sort of always looking ahead, not cramming."

Gentile's demeanor and wealth of wisdom begs the assumption that she's got it all figured out.

When asked about her legacy, however, she's quick to note she's not hanging up her jersey just yet. Most recently, she joined the Women's Sports Foundation Advisory Panel.

Ultimately, Gentile hopes women everywhere develop the same confidence and sense of belonging she's picked up along her professional journey.

"We're a part of the story. We belong alongside fellow athletes, male or female," she says. "We're not only building a brand that women really love and cherish, but we're also strengthening ESPN overall with more inclusive and diverse place when it comes to storytelling."

Though Gentile was forced to simply have faith that female leaders in sports exist, today's atmosphere is different. Women can swipe through an abundance of coverage on athletic greats like Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey, as well as future Olympians like Simone Biles.

"Now, young girls have a lot of role models and a lot more people to look to," says Gentile. "We're very proud about where espnW is right now, but we still feel like we're just getting started."