Anastasia Pagonis, Jenny Sichel, Rukhsar Habibzai, Danusia Francis and Jamie Mittelman
Photo credit: Eric Assylum Media
Even if you don’t work directly with female athletes, there’s a very good chance you still want to support women in sports. Frankly, it’s hard not to. Providing the facilities and opportunities for women athletes to compete is one struggle, but elevating them as role models and leaders is another.
Jamie Mittelman, the founder of Flame Bearers, frequently hears about the adversity female Olympians and Paralympians face. Not just the moments of glory and fame, but what happens when the fans and cameras go away. After almost three years of hard work and multiple awards, she is multiplying the impact her platform is having on people around the world.
Mittelman started Flame Bearers in 2020 after a period of self-reflection and re-alignment with her passions and skills. Since then, she has become an influential player in women’s sports and aims for Flame Bearers to become the go-to name for stories of elite female athletes. A flagship podcast, live events, and video stand front and center of the Flame Bearers brand, one which has stood under lights as bright as the Super Bowl. The resulting opportunities for like-minded industry leaders are only just beginning.
A chance for change
Flame Bearers isn’t just a space to talk about women in sports. Yes, the athletes she works with are all elite athletes, but the conversations are about resilience, overcoming bias, and hopes for the future. For example, at a recent event, Professional Afghan Cyclyst and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Rukhsar Habibizai shared being forced out of Afghanistan after the Taliban took over and her fervent commitment to elevating the voices of all Afghan women. Flame Bearers is a cause and movement that if supported, can bring about real change. And it’s not just about elevating the usual suspects. Yes, they are there too and Mittelman loves working with athletes she personally grew up idolizing, but she believes it’s just as important to champion and elevate frequently overlooked women such as women with disabilities and athletes from the Global South. And they go side by side on the same platform, receiving the same level of coverage.
“Our athletes are amazing speakers who can inspire the world,” Mittelman proclaims. “We all love to connect with Olympians and Paralympians—their stories resonate with everyone. Unfortunately, people often miss out on athletes with disabilities and women from underrepresented countries. We are changing that”
While many businesses are looking to make statements and investments in diversity and inclusion, Flame Bearers provides an easy way forward. Internally, employees can find motivation in a CEO’s commitment to equity, while the impact on global conversations can snowball. It all starts with a story.
Athletes on the airwaves
It’s common to name-drop podcasts as an easy solution to complex problems. Have you learned about X? No, so check out Y podcast to learn about it. While there are countless issues that touch and impact women’s sports, Mittelman doesn’t propose her work as the silver bullet.. Rather, she sees storytelling and Flame Bearers as a way to get people to care and connect with the athletes. As a former MBA student at Dartmouth, she’s fueling the demand; she believes people become fans and supporters when they personally connect with others or causes. “Most people aren’t going to start watching or caring about women’s sports because someone tells them to. We live in a world where everyone is clamoring for attention. Click here, watch this, donate here. If I told you to go support the rainforest or cancer research or any other very important cause, would you? The key is getting people to connect personally and adding value to their lives. Then they care and then they show up.”
Company executives can also become a part of this story, as Flame Bearers makes space for sponsorship in its groundbreaking episodes.
The opportunities are seemingly endless. Businesses with a commitment to diversity likely already have a team member dedicated to the subject. The Flame Bearers Podcast could be an ideal place for them to speak about the issue, an athlete that inspires them, or lend support to the cause. Flame Bearers’ mission is constant, so Mittelman and her team will always have guests from women’s sports at the starting line ready to go.
Sportswomen on stage
While podcasts can reach a boundless audience and change conversations overnight, it’s difficult to beat an in-person experience. The messages and stories that Flame Bearers’ athletes communicate hit hard, whether in earphones or via an office microphone.
For live events, the opportunities for potential sponsors are flexible down to the last detail. Support is all the organization asks; once guaranteed, companies can communicate their vision, and the Flame Bearers team will do their best to make it happen. Their connections to Olympians and Paralympians became evident from three seasons of their podcast and their event-planning skills proven at countless events including panels at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women’s Conference.
Far too many companies claim on job descriptions and website blurbs that they are committed to diversity with nothing to back it up. Without experiencing a company’s culture, it’s often impossible to find out if there is any substance behind that claim. A collaboration or sponsorship with Flame Bearers could be a valuable opportunity for companies to walk the walk on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Find out more here about how to support Olympians and Paralympians.