Deborah Slaner Larkin, Chief, Advocacy Officer

As of January 2017 Slaner Larkin stepped down from her CEO position at the Women’s Sports Foundation to serve as Chief, Advocacy Officer at the WSF. She has over thirty five years of executive experience in corporate, government and non-profit leadership. Throughout her career Slaner Larkin has focused her efforts on promoting civil rights, women’s leadership, education for under-served youth and gender equity on the local, regional, state and national levels.

After a successful career as a senior marketing executive in a NYC-based advertising agency, Slaner Larkin sought to change professions and aptly used her corporate experience to lead the Women’s Sports Foundation from 1986 through 1992, where she successfully implemented a comprehensive marketing, public relations and business plan, quadrupling the endowment and doubling revenues.  The WSF, founded over 40 years ago by Billie Jean King continues to serve as the collective voice for women’s sports whose mission is dedicated to creating leaders through sports participation.  Under Slaner Larkin’s tenure, the Foundation conducted national cutting edge research and pursued bold advocacy initiatives to support the growing awareness of sports for girls; importance of Title IX enforcement, increase of female participation in the Olympic movement and to ensure safe, equal rights for all.

Slaner Larkin was honored to serve as one of 18 national members of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports from 1994 to 2002. Considered an expert on Title IX, women’s health and education, she’s worked tirelessly educating the public about gender equity. Beginning with her  leadership at the WSF and eight-year tenure on the Council she’s testified before Congress and been interviewed on health, gender equity and Title IX issues and continues to speak on these issues through  national TV, radio and social media channels. During her tenure at the President’s Council, she also co-managed the critically acclaimed President’s Council Report- Physical Activity & Sport in the Lives of Girls: Physical & Mental Health Dimensions from an Interdisciplinary approach plus chaired the Council’s Committee on Minorities. She recognizes the dual importance of using evidence-based research to uncover the needs of and gaps of under-served populations in sports to creating outcome-driven programs that serve to make systemic change.

In 2010-2013, Ms. Larkin became the Executive Director of the US Tennis Association’s Foundation where she substantially increased returns and financial stability through ground-breaking evidence-based research, comprehensive communications campaigns and creative marketing programs. This growth resulted in awarding individual college scholarships and grants supporting tennis and education programs to under-served youth to over $17 million to date.

In 2014 Slaner Larkin was called back to serve the Women’s Sports Foundation as CEO. Under her leadership the WSF launched Sports 4 Life, a national grassroots sports program providing access and opportunity for African-American and Hispanic girls aged 11-18;  launched the Athlete Leadership Connection and Candid Conversations, leadership development programs for champion and student-athletes transitioning to their next careers; issued the ground-breaking research report “Beyond X’s and O’s,” uncovering gender bias in coaching in collegiate women’s sports; and established the Sports Advocacy Network, a coalition currently tasked with formulating an action plan to address the growing decline of women in coaching. In January 2018 she will launch PLAYIX, a unique edutainment game in which student-athletes, teams, administrators, parents and the public can learn about and engage with Title IX through a chat text-based format on Facebook Messenger and KIK. The game was created by the Women’s Sports Foundation as a tool to raise awareness about Title IX in a fun and interactive setting on a platform where students spend their time.

A member of the National Women’s Law Center for over 20 years, Slaner Larkin initiated a MARGARET Fund  (May All Resolve, Girls Achieve Real Equity Today) at the Center, a non-profit effort that develops and supports programs that promote education and compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. She was instrumental in creating “Title IX info” a comprehensive advertising and website-based campaign designed to educate the public on Title IX.  She was also involved in the National Women’s Law Center’s landmark Supreme Court victories: Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which holds schools accountable for student-to-student sexual harassment; Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, which prohibits retaliation by schools against those who protest discrimination; and a major pay equity victory when President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Play Act into law. Known as a creative marketer, fund-raiser, collaboration builder and team player; for her service, Slaner Larkin received the Billie Jean King Contribution Award in 1999. Her hard work and dedication has helped integrate fitness, fairness, and education into the lives of thousands of underserved youth. In recognition of these services, on May 15, 2012, Slaner Larkin received the Distinguished Woman of New York in Albany, NY nominated by State Senator Jeff Klein.

Slaner Larkin holds a BA at the U. of Oregon and MBA in Marketing at the U of Maryland.  She was a multi-sport athlete who still competes in USTA leagues and national tournaments and recognizes the role athletes have in influencing the next generation to be fit, healthy and well educated, which will enable them to transition into successful citizens and leaders. Larkin also serves on the boards of the National Women’s Law Center, Aspen Institute, Project Play board of Advisors, My Sisters’ Place, SUNY Purchase, RE:Gender (formally the National Council on Research for Women);  and NYJTL.