It established the Women’s Careers in Football Forum, an annual event held in conjunction with the league’s scouting combine that since 2017 has given women with entry-level roles in college programs a chance to learn from, and network with, N.F.L. general managers, coaches and executives. At last February’s session, 26 of the league’s 32 teams participated, and Samantha Rapoport, the N.F.L.’s senior director of diversity and inclusion, said that with a virtual format next month, she is hoping for full representation.
In 2019, 55 percent of the participants at the forum were women of color. Among all the women who attended the most recent gathering, in February, 15 were hired for full-time positions or internships, either in the N.F.L. or for a college program, for the 2020 season, bringing the total to 118 such jobs since the forum’s inception.
“People that are marginalized or disenfranchised, if you give them a shot, an opportunity to have a conversation with someone who can potentially hire them, that’s how they land on the short list,” Rapoport said.
In 2015, Jen Welter became the first woman added to an N.F.L. staff, as an assistant coaching intern with the Arizona Cardinals. Kathryn Smith became the first woman to hold a full-time assistant coaching position the following year, when she was named special teams quality control coach under Rex Ryan with the Buffalo Bills, and after the 2019 season Katie Sowers, who worked mostly with the 49ers’ wide receivers, became the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl.
(Sowers, after four seasons with San Francisco, announced a few weeks ago that she would not return in 2021.)
Another breakthrough came in November, when Callie Brownson of the Cleveland Browns was elevated to tight ends coach on a brief interim basis, becoming the highest-ranking female coach in league history.