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The NFL just hired its first full-time female coach

The Buffalo Bills have repeatedly made headlines in the past year for the cheeky antics of head coach Rex Ryan. Just a few weeks ago, Rex hired his twin brother Rob as an assistant head coach, according to ESPN.

Now the Bills are in the news again, but for much better reasons. Kathryn Smith has been named the club's assistant special teams coach, making Smith the first full-time female coach in league history. ESPN reported that Smith had previously worked for Rex Ryan for 12 years as a member of the Jets. Ryan said of the hiring:

"Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff. She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a couple of her outstanding qualities, and I just know she's going to do a great job serving in the role of Quality Control-Special Teams. Kathryn has been working in a football administrative role and assisted the assistant coaches for years. She has proven that she's ready for the next step, so I'm excited and proud for her with this opportunity."

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Tangible progress
The NFL and other major professional sports have become much more gender inclusive in the past few years, and Smith's hiring confirms this trend. In the summer of 2015, Jen Welter was an intern linebacker coach for the Arizona Cardinals, though she did not remain with the team for the regular season, the Washington Post reported.

While it has been difficult for women to get involved on the sidelines in the NFL, FiveThirtyEight reported that one in four NFL vice presidents is female. That is the highest proportion among the four major North American sports, although the NBA has two female CEOs, Jeannie Buss and Gillian Zucker, making it the only major sport to have women serving as top executives, according to Fortune. 

Along with being powerful corporate leaders, women have been able to make strides in other areas of the NBA. Michelle Roberts is the president of the NBA's player's union, the first female to lead any such organization in the big four sports leagues, and Becky Harmon serves as a full-time assistant coach for the incredibly successful San Antonio Spurs.

Smith worked hard to earn her new gig with the Bills, and no doubt there are many female coaches and business professionals who will add value and expertise to major sports organizations in the future.

Room for improvement
While Smith's hiring is an encouraging step forward, the NFL and other leagues still lag behind in terms of gender parity. FiveThirtyEight stated that the WNBA is a good example of how far other leagues have to come.

When it comes to executive leadership, 28 percent of WNBA CEOs are women, as well as 26 percent of vice presidents. As for majority owners, 36 percent are female, compared to just 16 percent in the MLB and 5 percent in the NBA. 

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