INDIANAPOLIS - When Katie Sowers stood on the sideline with the San Francisco 49ers in Miami in early February, she became more than the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl.
The Niners' offensive assistant also served as an example to a large swath of people.
Count Brittany Bowlen, the Broncos' Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, among them.
"Just even to see Katie coaching in the Super Bowl, I think that inspires so many people that don't necessarily think they fit the box of what an NFL coach needs to look like," said Bowlen on Wednesday between sessions of the NFL's Women's Careers in Football Forum. "It even inspired me to think what I could do with my career. I think to see a team performing well and having diverse coaches speaks [volumes]."
For those looking to join Sowers at the highest level of football, the two-day forum at the NFL Combine represented an opportunity to hear from some of the league's most prominent figures.
Jane Goodell, a former news anchor and the wife of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, spoke on Tuesday about her love for football, and owners Darcie Glazer Kassewitz and Kim Pegula detailed their strategies for getting more women in the room at the highest level.
Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust also presented at the 2020 forum.
"[She] talked about the challenges she overcame with her family, with her friends, people that didn't necessarily think this was the right path for her," Bowlen said. "She would have an opportunity and then the AAF folds and she doesn't have an opportunity. Having to find part-time jobs while she continues to push toward this opportunity and then it actually happening and now being with the Buccaneers, I thought that she showed a lot of perseverance and courage.
"She probably inspired a lot of women in the room to believe that imposter syndrome probably doesn't exist for them [and] that they can go beyond."
In addition to the featured panels, the conference also included breakout sessions with NFL executives. Bowlen said she attended a scouting breakout session, which included notes on how to best preparefor a career in scouting.
Select NFL head coaches and general managers also spoke to the attendees - which included team and league employees and representatives from colleges and other sports leagues.
"This is a highly networked business," Bowlen said. "That means they have to have the connections, you have to meet the people, you have to be able to get in the room with the right people that are the decision makers. That's difficult when it's so enclosed. And so things like this open up the opportunity for women to have conversations or minority [candidates] to have conversations with people they wouldn't necessarily get in the room with."
Bowlen said she attended the two-day conference to better understand how the NFL is supporting teams in their initiatives to hire more diverse employees.
"Hearing the challenges they've been through," Bowlen said, "what they've overcome and ... their connections in this highly networked business, how to build those connections and then also how to prepare themselves for when the opportunity comes along and being the best that they can be in that moment, I think was very outstanding."