Picture it: You’re at a football game, and the receiver makes a game-winning catch in the endzone. The fans go wild, the players pile on top of each other, and the photographers rush to capture the action.
But where are the women covering it?
I have been working in sports journalism for a little over two years now. I’ve covered everything from high school football games to NCAA regional tournaments, yet no matter where I go, I am consistently amongst a minority. There are very few (if any) other women covering sports besides myself.
Despite the fact that Title IX was enacted over 40 years ago, it appears there is still work that needs to be done as far as truly getting women accepted into the game.
The reality is sports journalism is a highly competitive field, and most women choose not to pursue a career in sports journalism.
There are a number of reasons why women tend to shy away from the male-dominated environment that an article called “Getting Women Into the Game,” on the website for the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) draws attention to.
First, the article highlights a double standard for women in sports journalism. There is still the stereotype that female sports reporters are just a “pretty face” that know nothing about sports. It doesn’t help women overcome any insecurities they may have about covering sports when they see cable television stations feature stylish young women on the sidelines. It reinforces the idea that women are not supposed to be active in reporting, but just a sideline attraction to entertain the male viewers during halftime.
In addition, women have to be perfect in their reporting, meaning they will be scrutinized for the slightest mistake in a name or stat, which is true. A man can mess up the name of the teams playing, and no one will give it a second thought. But imagine what people would say if woman messed up a name in an article or on TV? They would probably think she was careless and knew nothing about the sport, that she was not as knowledgeable as her male counterparts and had no business being out there.
While I agree that women face constant scrutiny, I wouldn’t say the real reason women don’t pursue a career in sports journalism is because they are too preoccupied with wanting to start a family or not thick-skinned enough.
Marie Hardin, dean of the College of Communications at Penn State University, has studied both male and female sports journalists. According to the article on the website for the SPJ, Hardin describes how women tend to back out of sports journalism because they start to weigh the value of a career versus family life.
However, what Hardin fails to acknowledge is that there was a time when it was considered too demanding for women to hold any job because of the assumption that if women took a job, they would eventually quit to take care of their husband or family.
So toss out the age-old argument that women just aren’t prepared enough for the demands of having a job and taking care of a family. In fact, it’s almost insulting because the idea that women just aren’t prepared for the demands of a job leads to the second argument, which is women just don’t have the personality to be a sports journalist.
According to the article, Jane McManus, sports writer and columnist for ESPN.com and ESPNW, says women “need a certain type of personality” to succeed in the industry. Again, this is implying that women are naturally too delicate to be a sports journalist—that they can’t handle the stress of the job or any criticism they may face.
Now, I’m not denying that women face criticism or unwanted attention. In fact, sexual harassment in sports journalism is a real concern that shouldn’t be taken lightly. According to the article, there have been several cases of sexual harassment of female TV reporters over the past 15 years. As someone who has been heckled at a game, I know it’s extremely frustrating! Yes, it’s irritating, but you learn in time to roll your eyes and shake off the comments, which brings me to the underlying issue.
While women face a certain amount of scrutiny, they have to be comfortable enough with themselves, and that is the key to succeeding in any job. Just like young athletes have a professional athlete they aspire to be like, young women entering sports journalism need a role model they can look up to so they can see how to overcome any difficulties they worry they’ll face. Male editors will hire female sports journalists, but women have to be confident enough in their own capabilities to realize they can do anything they set their mind to. They have to realize that the fear of scrutiny should not stop them from pursuing their dreams. If we can find a way to nurture self-confidence, I believe we can get more women into the game.