With the WNBA’s 23rd regular season just over a week away, the league has selected its replacement for Lisa Borders. The position vacated by Borders, who stepped down as president of the WNBA in October 2018, had been unfilled until Wednesday, May 15 when the league announced it made Cathy Engelbert the league’s first-ever commissioner.
1. Engelbert Comes From a Big Family
Engelbert, 54, is one of eight children. She has five brothers and two sisters. Her father was an IT manager and her mother a medical practice administrator. The family lived in Collingswood, N.J. Engelbert hasn’t kept up the tradition of having a big family, as the mother of just two. She makes her home in Berkeley Heights, N.J.
2. Engelbert Was a Collegiate Athlete
Engelbert is familiar with playing the game of basketball at a high level. Engelbert got her college education at Lehigh University, from which she graduated in 1986 with a degree in accounting. During her time at Lehigh, she was the captain of the women’s basketball and lacrosse teams. Her basketball coach at Lehigh was current Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw who has won two national titles with the Fighting Irish. After graduation, she became certified as a CPA and worked in the accounting field until she began climbing the corporate ladder.
3. Engelbert Broke Ground in Business
Before being named the WNBA’s first commissioner, Engelbert was the first woman in another position. In February of 2015, Engelbert was named the first female CEO of Delotitte. Deloitte is a company that provides financial services to large companies and one of the four largest firms in the financial services industry. Under Engelbert, Deloitte’s revenue grew to over $19 billion. Prior to being named the CEO of the entire Deloitte company, she served as the CEO of one of Delottie’s subsidiaries, Deloitte & Touche, LLP. She had been with Delottie since her accounting certification in 1986.
4. Engelbert Enters the WNBA at an Interesting Time
The WNBA is about to start its 23rd season but its last under the framework of the current collective bargaining agreement. The WNBA players association opted out of the current CBA during the past offseason. At the forefront of the reasons the players opted out is their compensation. As a group, the WNBA players only receive about 20 percent of the revenue the league brings in. Because of the meager salaries, many players also play in Europe during the WNBA offseason to supplement their incomes. It will be one of Engelbert’s first tasks to negotiate a new CBA and avoid a work stoppage delaying the 2020 season.
5. Engelbert Was Listed in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Top 20
In the most recent ranking of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, Engelbert was ranked 18th. That was a drop of two places from the previous ranking, which pegged her 16th in 2017. The reason for the drop was probably the pending expiration of her term as Deloitte’s CEO, for which she had not been renominated.
In Engelbert, the WNBA has gotten a proven revenue generator and leader. If she can continue to build the league and achieve labor peace, she will have had the same success in her role for the WNBA as she has had at her other professional endeavors.