University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna Wendy Lewis ’79, has changed the game of Major League Baseball for women and minorities since she began working for the Chicago Cubs in 1987.
“What I consider one of the most exciting aspects of my job is the ability to really make a definite contribution toward the change and advancement of the sport,” said Lewis, MLB’s senior vice president of strategic alliances and diversity.
Lewis’ many contributions to diversifying MLB will be recognized at the WISE Woman of the Year Awards ceremony on Wednesday, June 8, in New York City. Women In Sports and Events (WISE) is the leading voice and resource for professional women in the sports and events industries.
“This award is very special because of the selection process and the caliber of women who have received it in the past,” Lewis said. “Joining this unique club of extraordinary people is the the most special honor I’ve ever received.”
Joining Stacey Allaster, chairwoman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association; and Lisa Baird, chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Lewis will receive a WISE Woman of the Year Award during the 17th-annual WISE luncheon.
The award recognizes women who are leaders and influential voices for women in their careers, who break down barriers and create new opportunities for women in their field and who exemplify professional excellence.
Growing up in Milwaukee, Lewis and her family were avid sports fans. She attended UW Oshkosh and graduated with a degree in psychology. Lewis then attended the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and earned a master’s degree.
In 1987, she began her career with the Chicago Cubs as human resources manager. In 1995, Lewis joined the MLB central office as corporate liaison of human resources. While working for the Cubs, Lewis helped create the first human resource position for MLB. Today, all 30 MLB clubs have human resource directors, a position that was overlooked for many years.
After serving as the vice president of human resources and office operations, Lewis was promoted to vice president of strategic planning for recruitment and diversity. She serves as senior vice president today.
Lewis implements MLB’s Diversity Economic Impact Engagements, one of its newest initiatives to advance the diversity level of MLB’s current workforce and business suppliers.
The initiative develops methods for cultural assessments, diversity economic platforms and industry-wide diversity training.
In 1998, Lewis led the team that developed the Diverse Business Partners Program, an economically driven business plan to cultivate new and existing partnerships with minority and women-owned businesses.
Since Lewis began managing the program, it has helped bring in more than $800 million for these businesses.
“Everybody knows the legacy baseball carries in terms of social responsibility, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Lewis said.
Lewis is especially excited that her 91-year-old father will be in attendance when she receives the WISE award.
“He thinks it’s just so special that baseball actually pays me to make sure there’s a more diverse representation,” Lewis said. “He just thinks it’s incredible.”
Lewis said she is proud she’s been able to work through the challenges as a minority and a woman in the predominantly male world of sports.
“I’ve been in the business more than 20 years, and it has everything to do with how I perceive me, what I expect from me and not so much what I expect from other people,” Lewis said. “By the grace of God, I think I’ve been able to outwork and outlast a lot of people. One of my greatest assets is that I am a woman. Being a woman of faith is an extraordinarily powerful person to be.”