Bills High in the NFL for Women in Top Jobs

September 5, 2012 Updated Sep 5, 2012 at 7:24 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by Tim O'Shei, Contributing Editor

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September 5, 2012 Updated Sep 5, 2012 at 7:24 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - The Buffalo Bills have more women in high-level positions than nearly two-thirds of the National Football League.

That's not to say the team has several women at the top of the organization. No NFL franchise has that, except - depending on your definition of "several" - the New England Patriots. (Keep reading for numbers.)

With two women in top roles - Mary Owen, the team's executive vice president of strategic planning; and Gretchen Geitter, vice president of community relations - the Bills are ahead of 19 other NFL teams.

The NFL released a club-by-club breakdown of women in top roles (defined as vice president or higher) as part of its Kickoff 2012 Information Guide.

Some highlights:

• With five women in executive roles, the Patriots lead the league.

• Four teams have three women in executive roles: Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks.

• The Bills are one of eight teams with two women in top roles. The others: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.

• Thirteen teams have one woman in an executive position.

• Six teams didn't make the list because they have no women in vice president-or-higher roles: Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, and Pittsburgh Steelers. In fairness to those teams, however, resist the urge to draw conclusions based on that information alone. Carolina and Pittsburgh, for example, don't list team vice presidents, and each of those clubs - like virtually all NFL teams - have several women working in the front office.

Just as telling, I think, would be a study of how readily women break into and move up in NFL front offices. This list doesn't reveal that, nor is it designed to do so.

The Bills' top two women executives are fine examples of that.

Both Owen and Geitter - each of whom I've known for more than a decade - started with the team as interns. Geitter worked her way up the Bills' ladder, rung by rung, in Orchard Park. Owen, whose uncle is team owner Ralph Wilson Jr., moved to Detroit to work with her family's other businesses, and now splits her time between the two cities. (By the way, in case you have questions as to whether Owens earned her lofty position, I can tell you she did.)

Their paths were different, but the result is the same: They rank among the most influential women in this community and in the National Football League.

Also worth noting:

• Ralph Wilson's two daughters, Christy Wilson Hoffman and the late Linda Bogdan, have played key roles for the team at various points. Bogdan, who died in 2009, was the NFL's only active female scout.

• Wilson's wife Mary was cited in the NFL's Kickoff 2012 materials for founding the Western New York Girls in Sports program, which holds twice-yearly clinics at the Bills' complex.

• In the breakdown of executive positions, the NFL itself reported having 11 women in the league office ranking at vice president or higher.

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