As seen in a photo on our front page Thursday, Under Armour officially lit up three Westway Terminals molasses tanks with the images of Baltimore athletic legends.
The three tanks — called “Title Tanks” by the company — are now wrapped with iconic photos of Cal Ripken, Michael Phelps and Ray Lewis. These three were chosen for their contributions to Baltimore, said a spokesperson from Under Armour. Ripken and Phelps are both natives of the region, Ripken and Lewis both held long careers playing for Baltimore teams.
And the three of them have two things in common — they are all beloved athletes … and they are all men.
Under Armour said that it plans to eventually plaster a fourth tank at Westway, but has not disclosed which athlete will claim the title. But it’s only good business sense that this fourth memorial go to a woman.
The athletic apparel company has made clear that it wants to grow its women’s business. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank said in the company’s third quarter earnings call that this part of the business “will be larger than men’s someday in the future.”
Plank said he wants to make the women’s line a $1 billion business by 2016. With a growing collection of women’s products and a new presence in fashion-conscious New York City, the company is taking steps toward making this happen.
But how can a female consumer from Maryland, Plank’s home state, aspire to be one of the Maryland’s glorified iconic athletes donned in Under Armour apparel, if the company itself glorifies only men on its giant display, visible from across the Baltimore Inner Harbor?
At the Network 2000 Women of Excellence Luncheon on Wednesday, female business leaders acknowledged that they have a long way to go to achieve parity in the workplace. Featured speaker Geena Davis explained her institute’s research on women in TV shows and movies — they are rarely depicted at the C-suite level, which can make young girls think that business leadership is a man’s job.
Davis also mentioned that participating in sports dramatically changed her self-image for the better, but she was already an adult. The first time someone encouraged her to try sports, telling her she had potential, was when she starred in baseball film “A League of Their Own.”
If the lack of female leader characters in the media can affect girls’ career aspirations, it seems logical that a lack of publicized female athletes could do the same for their sports dreams.
It’s not as though Maryland hasn’t seen a few iconic woman athletes.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Maryland native and University of Maryland alumna Dominique Dawes, the first African-American to win Olympic gold in gymnastics, and member of three medal-winning Olympic gymnastic teams.
What about Pam Shriver — a Baltimore native who won more than 130 top tennis titles, including an Olympic Gold for doubles in Seoul, 1988.
Or maybe Jessica Long. This Baltimorean may not have as large a reputation as Michael Phelps, but she has double-digit gold medals. Hers are from the Paralympic games, in which she’s competed since 2004, when she was 12 years old.
If Plank wants to reach more of the female demographic, expanding the women’s clothing options, incorporating high-fashion influences, and securing endorsements with female athletes like Lindsey Vonn and Sloane Stephens are all good moves.
But perhaps he should make an extra effort right here in Maryland — by glorifying some of his home state’s iconic female athletes, right alongside their male counterparts.