Breaking Barriers—On and Off the Field

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Sarah Thomas looks the unattainable in the face and smiles, knowing she can't be stopped.

Thomas, who made history as the first woman to officiate a college football bowl game, will share her story at Inforum West Michigan's Capstone dinner on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids, 235 Louis Street NW.

Thomas' story is one of courage, adversity and perseverance to achieve the impossible. At the event, she'll share lessons learned on her journey to change the male-dominated sport.

Thomas officiated her first NFL game September 13, 2015, between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. But this was not the first time Thomas broke gender barriers in the sport: She was also the first female official to work a major college football game, officiate a bowl game, and officiate in a Big Ten stadium. Thomas' accomplishments are now sealed in sports history in the NFL Hall of Fame where her hat, whistle and flag are on display.

"I've always said that if you do something because you love it and not try to prove somebody wrong or get recognition for it, the recognition probably just is going to happen," Thomas told CBS News.

Terry Barclay, Inforum president and CEO, said the opportunity to have Thomas speak at the Capstone dinner is a tremendous honor.

"Her journey to become the first female NFL official in a male-dominated field puts a spotlight on the need for more women in underrepresented positions while expanding the national dialogue around gender equality," said Barclay.

While Thomas broke barriers on the football field, she took her confidence off the field and onto the stage to share her experiences on overcoming adversity while chasing her passion. She also provides insight on maintaining work-life balance and decision-making in male-dominated industries.

"We chose Sarah as a speaker because we know how inspirational she is," added Becky Puckett-Wood, Vice President, Corporate & Member Engagement, Inforum. "Her belief in self, inner drive, hard work and preparation as the path to finding your passion is translatable to everyone."

The Capstone dinner, Inforum's annual celebration, serves as a culmination of another year of programming helping women to find their passion and shift mindsets to break barriers.

Tickets are available at Inforum West Michigan.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.

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