In the midst of his busy schedule that includes preparing for free agency and the NFL Draft, Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot took part in the NFL's fifth annual Women's Careers in Football Forum as a panelist on Wednesday.
Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and Fontenot were the four panelists during the hour-long virtual discussion. The forum is one of the many steps the NFL is taking to help ensure diversity and inclusivity takes place at all levels.
Fontenot, who spent 17 years with the New Orleans Saints before being hired by Atlanta, said it was especially important for him to participate in the forum for a number of reasons starting with the number of women on his own staff.
"The reason I wanted to be on the call is because I'm inspired by seeing what Atlanta has done in the office," Fontenot said. "I think Atlanta has done a really good job in that area. I don't feel like when I'm in Atlanta there aren't any walls. Everyone has legit opportunities to continue to grow."
Fontenot fielded questions about what qualities he looks for in the hiring process to the importance of having your own ideas to bring to the table.
"The last thing we want is group think," Fontenot said. "You want people who look at things from a completely different angle than you will. It's important to bring in people from different diverse backgrounds but then to have that confidence to speak your peace and say what you want."
Fontenot also took the time to individually mention several female employees in the Falcons' organization that he works closely with including the two female scouting coordinators on his staff: Rushell Harvey and Kjahna O. He also mentioned the work Kirsten Grohs, Alyssa Kelly and Sarah Hogan do in their respective roles. Grohs is Atlanta's manager of football administration, Kelly is Fontenot's executive assistant and Hogan is the Falcons' coordinator of head coach operations.
As far as his takeaways from being a panelist on the forum, Fontenot walked away feeling more than optimistic about the future and is hopeful more opportunities occur to help ensure this happens.
"I think the cool thing about it was really seeing how many really qualified, smart, energetic females do want to be in the business," Fontenot said. "That's a really good forum to actually open those doors and there's got to be more things. We have to find more ways to figure out ways to interact so when there are opportunities and openings, there's a clear path for the females trying to get opportunities. I think it's going to continue to grow. I definitely think we're moving in the right direction."
General Manager Terry Fontenot takes his first tour of Atlanta Falcons facilities in Flowery Branch with Rich McKay.