The Work-Life Equation: Swin Cash, Vice President of Basketball Operations, New Orleans Pelicans

Swin Cash

Do you want to break barriers, shatter glass ceilings, and become a game-changer in your male-dominated industry? Do you want to see diversity and gender equality thrive within your workplace? If so, we have the solution for you.


Join Christine and Priya on this week's episode of The Work-Life Equation as they speak with Swin Cash, an empowering leader, speaker, and advocate. She shares how you can achieve the ultimate goal: to become an unstoppable force and achieve gender parity in your industry. Get ready to be inspired, motivated, and equipped with the tools and strategies to take your career to the next level.

 



Read the full transcript

00:00:11 - Christine Michel Carter
Hello, everyone, and welcome to The Work-Life Equation, a Bright Horizons podcast, the only podcast featuring candid conversations, stories and strategies from corporate leaders, public figures, and everyday people who are putting the piece pieces together to make life work. I am one of your hosts, Christine Michele Carter.

00:00:30 - Priya Krishnan
And I'm Priya Krishnan.

00:00:32 - Christine Michel Carter
Priya, how have you been since we last spoke?

00:00:35 - Priya Krishnan
I've been good, Christine. I think we haven't caught up in such a long time, so I'm really looking forward to this episode with our stellar guest.

00:00:46 - Christine Michel Carter
I'm looking forward to it because she's an author, she's a three time WNBA champion, a two time WNBA all-star MVP, and she's a boy mom like you. So I'm really excited. I think we'll have much to chat through with being a boy mom, but also just being an all-around powerhouse. I mean, she's tough mentally and physically.

00:01:07 - Priya Krishnan
She's just a boy mom who doesn't look like a mom.

00:01:10 - Christine Michel Carter
How about it? Well, before we bring her on this week's “Here We Go Conversation” with your kids. I'd love to share mine for you and for those who are listening for the first time. Other people call them dinner table conversations, but PRIA and I believe that who has time to wait until dinner these days to have conversations with children? So they're basically those conversations with your kids that make you think, how in the world am I going to have this discussion? So Priya, mine was this Sunday, my daughter paid for dinner for the first time ever, and I say paid for with me transferring money into her account. But she had a fit when she saw that she had to pay sales tax for dinner even though it was just $2. She put us all on an appetizer budget, and I had to spin it in a positive way and tell her that it was her social responsibility to pay taxes because it's her civic duty. And the actions that she takes in paying taxes benefit our society with parks and schools. And needless to say, she really wasn't trying to hear it. Have you had a conversation about social responsibility and civic duties with your kids yet?

00:02:16 - Priya Krishnan
So my oldest son, when he turned 18, the first question he asked me is, do I have to pay taxes? And we have a similar chat in terms of saying taxes aren't bad. This is all the things that are around you come from taxes. So it's interesting how they sort of see this as a liability, but not the things that they actually benefit from health care, the infrastructure, roads, all of those things. So among all the financial conversations, I think having the discussion on taxes is a good one.

00:02:50 - Christine Michel Carter
Yeah. And it's just trying to speak. I think that I was just trying to tell my about the greater good and your civic duty and responsibility. And I feel like I bring that up because today's guest has actually won an award for being socially responsible, nothing related to taxes as mundane and trivial as that, but really impactful on her community. So with no further ado, today's guests welcome Swin Cash to The Work-Life Equation

00:03:18 - Swin Cash
Hi, ladies. Thanks for having me. Super psyched to be here.

00:03:22 - Priya Krishnan
Hi, Swin. It's so nice to have you here. You have so many stories, and we have so many questions for you. But I think my first one is in 2017, you were named the VP of Basketball Operations, the first black woman to hold that type of position in basketball operations. How did the impact of that feel when you were first accepted into that position, and how does it feel now, looking back at that time six years ago?

00:03:52 - Christine Michel Carter
Yeah.

00:03:53 - Swin Cash
Well, it's a great question, and I think whenever I took this role here with the Pelicans, one of the biggest things for me is that I understood just how transformative it could really be for other women that were coming in the door, possibly behind me. And so I wanted to take on the responsibility of not only doing a great job I think we all want to do a great job wherever we work, but also trying to lean into how I can create an atmosphere where other women could have similar opportunities. So that's the mindset that I brought into it. It's been a four year ride so far and just excited to continue to do the work.

00:04:33 - Christine Michel Carter
Can you tell everybody a little bit about She's Got Time? Because I think it is a fascinating initiative and the world should know about it and what inspired you to create it.

00:04:44 - Swin Cash
Yeah. So last year, when you think about I played 15 years in the WNBA. After that, I went into my career in media, but I had all this exposure to other areas of our sports world. And last year when I went into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, for me, it was like this journey, euphoria kind of moments you think about where I started thinking about one door really closing and how blessed I was and how I wanted to be intentional, moving forward, creating opportunities and spaces for women and especially women of color, that they could convene in a way and build a community because they want to love sports and love working in sports, but that they also would be able to have that community field to grow and develop and have real, authentic conversations. So when you think about she's got Time, people are always telling us what we don't have time for, and I'm like, oh, no, we got time to be moms if we want to. We got time to run business, be entrepreneurs, be in the corporate space, be a philanthropist. You have the time and you make time for things that you want. And so that's the whole premise around she's got time. And I'm super excited, Christine, for the first summit that's going to happen here in New Orleans June 28 through the 30th.

00:05:56 - Christine Michel Carter
How fun.

00:06:01 - Priya Krishnan
I want to go back to your VP of Bright Horizons. And David Griffin named you, and he said he would have hired you. You thought that he was bluffing. And how did it feel when the offer actually got made and you knew that he was being genuine about it and actually believed that you could do the role?

00:06:21 - Swin Cash
Yes. Priya, that's a funny story because Griff I who we call him, his name is David Griffin, but I call him Griff. We were working together at Turner Sports, and so we're working late nights, we're covering the NBA, and as I was walking out the door one day, he just randomly said to me, you know what, I'm talking to a couple of teams. If I get the job to run basketball operations, I'm going to be giving you a call. And I was like, okay, cool. Good luck. Think much of it. And then weeks later, I get the ticker on my phone. It says David Griffin has been high with the pelicans. So I was like, oh, wow. So I reached out to him and just basically saying, like, congratulations, good luck. And he was like, oh, yeah, I'll be giving you a call soon. And I'm like, he was for real, for real. And so what's so impactful about that is that we didn't work together for a really long time, but you never know who you impact just by working and being your authentic self and working. And so when I took the job, I came in and I said, okay, what's the role? Let's talk through it. And he was like, I need you to wear a lot of different hats. We got a lot of work to do. And you just have that team spirit and that want to build culture in a way that we need here. And so I'm very grateful for Griffin and him giving me that opportunity and entrusting in me to have a certain level of autonomy to really help grow in a space that I love and that's sports.

00:07:45 - Christine Michel Carter
So you say that when Griffin initially called you that you thought nothing of it. And I have to ask, and I'm going to make an assumption, that you thought nothing of it because things have been brought to your attention before. You've had opportunities come your way and they haven't come to fruition. So I'm assuming that obviously you've overcome some challenges, you've experienced some challenges. Have you ever experienced challenges in this position and in such an executive position as a woman working in a stereotypical man's world, you're in a very male dominated industry. I would love to hear some of the challenges that you experienced that made you think this opportunity wasn't even going to be real.

00:08:32 - Swin Cash
Yeah, I would say this. There's not a lot of people that come from the media side. Former players tend to come to the basketball operations side, but I guess it wasn't as real to me because it was so nonchalant of somebody saying, hey, I want to come and get you. And when you have good leadership, that's what people usually do. They want to go hire the best talent they see. But for me, I deal with it on a day to day basis. I don't mince words. I don't hide from it, because I think that's partly what's wrong with our society, is we don't want to talk authentically about some of the issues that we struggle with. I'm a high ranking executive on an NBA team. I'm a woman and I'm black. And so there are going to be a lot of things that are challenges because of how you show up and how you identify. And I don't look at it as a problem. I look at it as an opportunity. And the more that I believe that we start creating these spaces where it's not about we just need to hire a woman and put her in a room. It's about diversity of thought in the room. Hiring women and having diversity in these rooms that are decision making rooms is good business. And that's what I continue to preach and talk about, is like, look, we're not trying to check boxes. You're trying to get the best people in the room that diverse enough so that you're not all thinking on one track. Because ladies, Priya, Christine, you know, like women, we think differently, we see things differently. And in bringing that to the table, I told Griff, I've always said to him, look, you sit in the highest chair. My job is to give you my opinions, my insight, and then you make a decision. And I'm good with that. And so that level of stress I don't have to carry every day. My stress is different than yours. But I love the way we can work in tandem.

00:10:23 - Priya Krishnan
I think, like, diversity of thought and opinion is so important, and I'm so glad you're playing that because I'm a huge fan of basketball. I love the fact that there is a woman representing us women and how we think as your viewers of the game. But you were also pregnant with your second son in the early part of your career. How was that? I mean, today I think it's a little bit more accepted both with sports people and people in management. But this must have been a first among the many first that you've had.

00:10:54 - Swin Cash
Yeah, and that's another reason. My little baby, my second son, he was born, we call him little COVID baby. He happened during COVID And there was so much stress that I was going through with our players playing in a bubble with being a mom, being pregnant, how you can deliver your son. And so when I talk to a lot of other women that go through these issues of when is it time to start a family? How can I have a family? How can I continue to thrive in my career if I have another child? This is one of the reasons why She's Got time in creating this platform was so important to me, is that we could have these opportunities of conversations, of workshops monthly so that women can express and be able to share these views. Because you're not alone. There are many women who go through this. I have friends right now that talk. It was easy for me to get pregnant. I literally my husband and I said, oh, maybe we should think about having another child. And a month later, I was pregnant, whereas I've had friends that have struggled and been IVF and going through all these things. And there needs to be spaces for women who work and love sports and know they can stay in sports.

00:12:07 - Priya Krishnan
I think that's the premise with which Christine and I started the podcast is there is solidarity in these conversations. So it's really amazing that you've created She's Got Time, and that creates a forum for women to have conversations with.

00:12:21 - Christine Michel Carter
All of your accomplishments. People can easily forget that you've also had roadblocks and struggles in life just like everybody else. And in your book, Humble Journey: More Precious Than Gold, you write about your experience not making the US. Olympic team a second time, and also that you share that you beat kidney cancer, which you were diagnosed with around 2007, that you didn't even share with the public until the release of your book. So what's your process for navigating through the tough challenges?

00:12:51 - Swin Cash
Yeah, it's just having a solid foundation, 2007 to 2008, not making a national team, and then just really going on that journey to getting back to the Olympic team in 2012. It was a lot of tears, a lot of family, a lot of small circle, and a lot of love. I just needed that. I think the best thing you can do when you're going through a tough time is understanding what you need and not feel like you need to give everything to everybody else. And that was important for me, my faith, my family, my foundation. That really helped me through. And it was a tough time. It wasn't just a physical thing. There were emotional things, had a bad relationship that I actually went through at that time, too. And so there's things you don't necessarily want to share with the public. And I felt like being a public figure, you're always giving, giving, and that part of my life was something that was more controlled, and it felt good to be in power of that.

00:13:55 - Priya Krishnan
And you have a really strong relationship with your mom. How was that? And who else is part of your village and your safe space?

00:14:04 - Swin Cash
Yeah, my mom. So my mom had me really young, and so I feel like we kind of grew up together where it was more like my mom close best friend, besties sister, and just were lifeing together. And my mom was always there. And even though my mom was an athlete, my dad was away in the military, he was an athlete. My mom always held a position of mom she never was trying to be. Nowadays, you have parents who want to be the coach. They want to be this. My mom was mom, and that was so amazing. And like, my rock for me, always like, my, my we all have, like, that space that we go to, like that person we go to, or where we know we're going to get the real, we know we're going to get support, but they're going to tell us the truth. And my mom was that for me. And obviously, I had my mentor who was there, my pastor, my girlfriends, my small circle, our little tribe that we like to have together. That's who was kind of my rock during that time.

00:15:06 - Priya Krishnan
That's beautiful.

00:15:07 - Christine Michel Carter
So as a mother, I know that you're a busy New Orleans woman, so you got to leave us pretty soon. Your mother, you're a busy woman, you're an executive. But I want to ask you just one more question. What are your hopes for your two sons?

00:15:22 - Swin Cash
Let me try not to get teary-eyed, because every time I get asked that question, it hits me in a different way. We have been through so much in our society over the last years as a mom, as an advocate, as a philanthropist, as a wife, daughter. For me, I'm so intentional about trying to make this world better in whatever capacity that God's going to use me in. For my boys, I want them to be able to thrive the best way that they can. And we were talking just offline, both us both all of us ladies, Priya and Christine, that having a five and a two year old. People walk through the airport, and I'll never forget this. And they look at my boys and they're like, oh, they're so cute. And they want to pinch them, they want to hold them, and they're just like, oh, they're so nice. And in the back of my mind, they have no idea that I love the beauty in that every race ethnicity doesn't matter has done it because I travel a lot with my kids. But in the back of my mind, I think about at some point, my kids are 99 percentile. And when you see that 16 year old black boy that looks like a grown man, do you still want to hug him, say how cute he is and have that love for him? That's as a mother and as a mother of black children, that's what I deal with every single day. And that's why it's important that we do everything humanly possible to make this place better for them. I don't want my kids to feel that they're growing in a privileged way where they don't understand societal issues that are here. I want them to be strong. I want them to be educated, and I want them to be humble, to help other people and have that sense of humanity. So that's what I want for my boys. And if I can use this platform of sports, if I can use the platform, if she's got time to be that community for other women and moms that go through what I go through or feel what I feel, it's important. But we lead with love, we lead with kindness. And that's how I try to live my life, far from perfect. But I know that my assignment is to do what needs to be done to make sure that when I'm long and gone, that I have two boys who understand what their assignment is next. And so I think as moms, we all feel that and we just try to respect one another. And like I said, lead with love.

00:17:44 - Christine Michel Carter
When I feel what you feel. And I completely understand you saying that you didn't want to get teary eyed. You got boy moms on this podcast with you. And I pray from the bottom of my heart that the world is a better place for your children because that means it's going to be a better place for Priya and my baby boy as well. Baby Boy - eight years old, but I am right there with you. I completely agree with you, and I thank you for the work that you're doing.

00:18:11 - Swin Cash
Thank you all so much. I appreciate you both. Oh, my goodness. And I loved being here on The Work-Life Equation podcast with both Priya and Christine because you're both phenomenal women, phenomenal moms, and keep spreading love and your voices need to be heard. And I was happy to join you all today.

00:18:31 - Priya Krishnan
Thank you so much.

00:18:33 - Christine Michel Carter
Wow. That was incredible. She is amazing. I love that Swin is being just a powerful force in a male dominated industry, being an incredible representative of what a strong mom is for her two boys. I mean, I stand I'm a little hurt that she didn't invite me to New Orleans to watch a game, but, you know, we'll build a friendship.

00:19:00 - Priya Krishnan
We can write in and say she was talking about. While we were recording for this show, Christine, about how her son walks in and he says hi to all the players, whereas when his friends come in, they've got these big bleary eyes like, oh, my God. So you and I can have that when we go visit.

00:19:18 - Christine Michel Carter
Yeah. How about it? Her son has riz is what the kids are saying now. And when my kids listen to this, they'll never speak to me again for saying riz on this call. But what was your thought of the week.

00:19:33 - Priya Krishnan
I was thinking that her kids won the gene pool lottery because she said her husband was six foot seven and she's this basketball player. I didn't for a minute, think about the fact that at 16, how would he be treated? And it was such an eye opening experience for me. So my thought is that we all are purposeful about how we talk about this with our kids. Specifically as moms, we have children of color and how they think about race and how they change the world around them, just like she's doing it. I think having that conversation intentionally with our kids is going to be important. So that was my takeaway. And I really want to think about how we bring kids more actively into.

00:20:22 - Christine Michel Carter
This discussion 100%, because it's their social responsibility. Right. Just tying it back to what we were saying. What resources does Bright Horizons have?

00:20:32 - Priya Krishnan
When you go to BrightHorizons.com/Resources, you find tons of resources around women. But I think a few, like the Outdated Stereotypes About Women at Work is one that's worth looking at. And How to Prepare for Maternity because she went through an exceptional circumstance. But she seems like an overconfident woman who knows exactly where she wants to head. But a lot of women aren't comfortable talking about maternity and sort of having that conversation with the employer. So those two, I felt, will be pertinent for our listeners.

00:21:08 - Christine Michel Carter
Absolutely. I mean, she was pregnant with her second son early on in her career as a Vice President, so who's had a more difficult navigation of maternity leave than somebody who's an executive? So yeah, absolutely. You're right.

00:21:22 - Priya Krishnan
What were your thoughts?

00:21:24 - Christine Michel Carter
I absolutely thought it was incredible how she was offered a job opportunity just on a random personal phone call and yet thought it wasn't going to come to fruition. When I feel like so many times the blessings that come in our lives don't come with a formal. To whom it may concern, I am expressing my deep interest in X-Y-Z. It is those informal and organic moments that seem to change our life. So I'm really happy for her. I'm happy for Swin that that is exactly how she became the powerhouse that she is today.

00:22:01 - Priya Krishnan
No, I guess life is interesting because it's got so much serendipity in it.

00:22:07 - Christine Michel Carter
Very good.

00:22:08 - Priya Krishnan
Bright Horizons is the world's most trusted education and care company. We partner with employers to provide exceptional early learning, family care and workforce education that transforms lives and organizations because we believe education and care can change the world. One child, one family, one organization at a time. Are you looking for a job? Visit Careers Brighthorizons.com where you can join our talent community and receive the most up to date news and events at Bright Horizons. And don't forget to subscribe to Teach. Play. Love., our parenting podcast, where you'll get expert advice from our education team and learn what really matters and what doesn't in your child's earliest years of learning, growth, and development. Follow us on our social media and stay up to date on company news join live events and see what's happening at our centers. Join us by following Bright Horizons on LinkedIn and @BrightHorizons on Instagram.

00:23:01 - Christine Michel Carter
You've just listened to an episode of The Work-Life Equation with Christine Michele Carter.

00:23:05 - Priya Krishnan
and I’m Priya

00:23:07 - Christine Michel Carter
Until next time, guys. Thanks for joining us.

00:23:10 - Priya Krishnan
Thank you so much.

 


Priya Krishnan, Senior Vice President, Client Relations and Growth Operations
About the Author
PRIYA KRISHNAN
Chief Digital and Transformation Officer
Priya Krishnan comes to Bright Horizons after founding and running India's largest childcare business. She is the winner of many awards for her work in the space, including Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Turk, FT1000 for Asia, and Red Herring Asia.
Swin Cash