Commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement at the opening of the NFL's inaugural "Women's Summit" on Thursday. The gathering brought together about 250 people from the league, businesses, athletes and government officials to discuss women in sports and, in particular, the role sports can play for young girls.
"We believe in diversity," Goodell said. "We believe we're better as an organization when we have good people at the table."
Among the speakers at the first day of the two-day summit was tennis legend Billie Jean King, who implored the NFL -- with its reach and popularity -- to imagine ways it could impact sports for women and girls. King, a football fan, would like to see greater support for women football leagues.
Keynote speaker Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State who once said her dream job was to be NFL commissioner, spoke about the resilience she learned as a young figure skater -- a not very good one, she admitted -- and how it helped her throughout her career. Sarah Thomas, who just completed her first season as a full-time official, also attended the summit.
Also in attendance Thursday was Dawn Aponte, a Miami Dolphins front office executive, and several senior executives from the league office, including Cynthia Hogan, the NFL's executive vice president of public policy and government affairs. Amy Trask served as the chief executive of the Oakland Raiders under late owner Al Davis years before much attention was paid to the subject.
The NFL was buffeted by heavy criticism last year in the wake of its handling of domestic violence cases involving Ray Rice and Greg Hardy. Among the points made by critics: Perhaps the league could have avoided the mistakes surrounding Rice's initial suspension of two games if more women had been at the top level of NFL decision making.