Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Commissioner Penny Allen-Cook was named to a 15-person task force created by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and will be chaired by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
On June 17, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-16, which establishes the Task Force on Women in Sports within the Department of State and chaired by Benson. This task force – the first of its kind at a state government level – will bring together local and national leaders to develop strategies that support and promote opportunities in Michigan for girls and women in sports.
"Young girls and women who are participating in sports in Michigan deserve the same opportunities as their male counterparts. These possibilities extend well beyond time on the playing field," Whitmer said. "Playing basketball in high school allowed me to develop leadership skills while learning about the importance of teamwork. When women participate in a variety of sports, it allows them to explore these meaningful opportunities."
Allen-Cook, who recently completed her fifth academic year as the MIAA Commissioner, has worked in athletics at the youth, high school, and collegiate levels as both a coach and administrator for over 30 years. Allen-Cook has championed women’s advancement in sports by teaching in the Coaching Advancement Program courses offered by the Michigan High School Athletic Association, committee involvement with the NCAA, facilitating women’s leadership programs and mentoring female athletic administrators. Allen-Cook is a member of American Volleyball Coaches Association, We Coach, and Women’s Leaders in College Sports.
"Women and girls of all backgrounds derive multiple benefits from opportunities to play sports – from lessons in confidence, courage, resilience and perseverance, to gains in physical health and psychological well-being," Benson said. "This task force will bring together local and national leaders in sports and education to evaluate this inequality by examining these systematic problems from both a historical and current perspective."
Following that detailed assessment, the task force will develop recommendations to the governor and state of Michigan on legislation, policies, investments and programs to address the problems and position Michigan as a national leader in empowering women to lead.
Along with Allen-Cook and Benson, task force members include:
- Dr. Ketra Armstrong, an associate dean, professor of sport management and faculty athletics representative at the University of Michigan.
- Kathy Beauregard, Western Michigan University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
- Keri Becker, Director of Athletics at Grand Valley State University.
- Lorin Cartwright, retired Athletic Director and Athletic Trainer (ATC) from Pioneer High School.
- Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of Michigan Women Forward.
- Dr. Judi Brown Clarke, Diversity Director for the BEACON Center at Michigan State University.
- Cali Crawford, incoming Director of Athletics at Schoolcraft College.
- Joanne C. Gerstner, sports journalist in residence at the School of Journalism at Michigan State University and former journalist at The Detroit News, USA Today, ESPN, and The New York Times.
- Jennifer Granger, an advocate for nonprofit and charitable causes.
- Mike Guswiler, leader of non-profit West Michigan Sports Commission.
- Carol Hutchins, University of Michigan head softball coach.
- Sam Mullet, who was a three-sport athlete while at Bear Lake High School; she now serves as the offensive coordinator for Bear Lake varsity football team.
- Erika Swilley, senior director of community and social responsibility for the Detroit Pistons.