The National Football League announced that forty women from across the NFL took part in the inaugural Women’s Career Development Symposium on March 18-19 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Florida. This program is the latest iteration of the annual NFL Career Development Symposium that engages aspiring executives through presentations, panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking opportunities with club and league executives and industry experts.

Among the speakers and presenters were Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Administration Dawn Aponte; Bengals Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn; Chargers Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer Jeanne Bonk and Detroit Lions SVP of Administration and CFO Allison Maki.

In addition, faculty from both The Wharton School and Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, as well as executives from the CIA, financial services and entertainment industries were scheduled to speak to the participants.

Program sessions include: “Meeting the Ever-Changing Challenges of the NFL,” “League Perspective,” “What the NFL and National Security Have in Common,” “How to be Impactful in Your Professional Development,” “Negotiation and Persuasion,” “Keys to Navigating Tough Environments” and “Leading with Impact: How to Think, Communicate and Lead Strategically.”

The Steering Committee for this year’s Symposium included Aponte, Blackburn and Bonk, along with NFL Director of Football Operations Matt Birk, Chief Strategy Officer of NFL Football Operations Kimberly Fields, NFL Director of Human Resources Sara Schultz and NFL Vice President of Labor Finance Christine Vicari. The program is directed by NFL Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Robert Gulliver and NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent.

Career Development Symposium participants are selected by the NFL office after NFL clubs submit nominations from their staffs. There was one participant representing each club and other participants from the league offices.

The Career Development Symposium previously ran from 1998-2008 and returned in 2013. The past Symposiums focused on engaging aspiring head coach and general manager candidates.

Earlier this year the NFL hosted the first-ever NFL Women’s Summit: “In the Huddle to Advance Women in Sport” in San Francisco leading up to Super Bowl 50 where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the expansion of The Rooney Rule to include interviewing women for all open executive positions at the league office. Additionally, the NFL recently launched its Diverse Talent Community – an invite-only online recruitment platform that encourages quality, dynamic candidates with diverse backgrounds to join its ranks through a shared talent acquisition database for Human Resources across the NFL and its 32 clubs.

In other NFL news …

Seven members of the NFL Legends Officiating Development Program’s Class of 2016, including six former NFL players and one current player, participated in the ninth-annual Tom Beard’s Football Officials Clinic last weekend in Baltimore. The clinic, led by prominent NFL and NCAA officials, is an annual event to help officials advance to the next level and gain exposure to leaders in the field.

The NFL Legends Officiating Development Program (LOPD) provides current and former players with specialized training, education and support to advance careers in officiating. It is one of several programs offered as part of the broader Football Officiating Academy, a career development initiative led by the NFL’s Officiating Department.

The seven LODP members will kick off the event today at a special NFL Officiating Clinic. NFL officials, supervisors and several former players from the LODP’s Classes of 2014 and 2015, including Matt Griebel, NCAA Division I official and LODP Class of 2014; Dwight Pettiford, NFL Scout; Dave Wyant, NFL officiating recruiting and scouting coordinator, will share their officiating experiences and offer guidance focused on skill and character development. Former player and current Director of NFL Player Engagement Keith Elias also will speak with players about the career transition process.

“We encourage our former players to explore officiating as a post-playing career, as it offers a great way for them to continue to serve the sport they love,” said Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations. “Our Legends Development Program has been invaluable in helping our players to effectively transfer their in-game knowledge and instincts to the officiating side of the game.”

The Tom Beard Football Officials Clinic begins Friday with a keynote address by longtime NFL official Jerry Markbreit. At the clinic, the LODP members will receive classroom and on-field instruction from current and former officials and officiating supervisors from all levels of football, including members of the Super Bowl 50 officiating crew: Head Linesman Wayne Mackie, Field Judge Boris Cheek and Side Judge Scott Edwards.

NFL Player Engagement and the NFL Football Officiating Academy partnered to select the following players to participate:

Sammy Davis – Former (San Diego, San Francisco and Tampa Bay)
Trai Essex – Former (Indianapolis and Pittsburgh)
DeJuan Groce – Former (New Orleans, Seattle and St. Louis)
Greg Hanoian – Former (Kansas City)
Tim Jamison – Free Agent (Houston)
Ryan Kees – Former (Arizona and Detroit)
Wilson Raynor – Former (New York Jets)

About NFL Football Development: NFL Football Development institutes a culture of clarity, consistency and credibility to players, coaches, clubs and fans to develop the future player, preserve and innovate the game and protect the NFL brand. Football development serves and support the clubs in in delivering the best product to fans, in growing participation, and in developing a pipeline of talent. For further information, visit

About NFL Player Engagement: NFL Player Engagement assists players in reaching their highest potential on and off-the-field with guidance, support, and resources provided before, during and after their NFL experiences. NFL Player Engagement works with three core audiences: Prep, Life and Next. NFL Life (current players) and NFL Next (former players) reach more than 2,000 NFL players and spouses each year through a variety of programs and services focused on career development, financial and continuing education, as well as personal, psychological, and physical wellness. NFL Prep provides high-school and college student-athletes of all sports with tools to help them succeed in life, focused on awareness, prevention and education. More information can be found at