Women are somewhat rare in major sports, excluding women’s leagues. The vast majority of athletics staffers are male, from physical trainers to coaches to team owners.
This is also true in the journalism industry. It’s far more common to see a male broadcaster or reporter than a female one, and women in the industry are often objectified or discounted simply because of their gender.
While all of journalism is still male-dominated, some statistics from WorkInSports.com claim that nearly 90 percent of the sports reporting field is male. And while some of the disparity comes from women not being as interested in sports, some of it comes from gender alone. Women in sports journalism are criticized and commented on more about their outfits and their bodies than their reporting and their knowledge of the sport.
Last year, Cam Newton laughed at Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue when she asked him about a player’s route running ability and said, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.”
If you google “famous female sports reporters” or any similar topic, one of the top results in the “also asked” section is “Who is the hottest female sports reporter?” Several of the top results overall are rankings based off of how attractive the reporters are, with quotes like “she continually proves someone can be really attractive AND knowledgeable about sports.”
This is shown even within the field. Bleacher Report, one of the nation’s most popular sports reporting sites, published a now-deleted article titled “50 Hottest Female Sports Broadcasters from Around the World.”
For me, it’s a normal thing to look down press row and see that I’m the only woman reporting, even at large games such as Liberty’s football game at UVA. And the difference shows within the sports section in the Champion. We generally only have two or three women reporting in the sports section.
And though I haven’t experienced any of the harassment or comments that many have, I know that it’s inevitable as a journalist.
I know that I’m part of a rare breed. I’ve seen it on occasion when I walk into an interview and get the slightest surprise from whoever I’m interviewing, or when I mention that I’m the sports editor and the person’s first reaction is to ask, “Why sports?”
But here’s the thing: the lack of women in sports journalism is the reason we need more women in the field. While men can find work fairly easily with the right experience and portfolio, women often have to prove themselves capable, even if they have the same amount of experience.
It’s an obstacle, yes, but not an impossible one. Strong women like Samantha Ponder and Rodrigue have more than proven that not only do women have a place in sports journalism, but that they can make a huge difference in the field.
Women in this field and any area of journalism can’t let their fears of harassment or judgment prevent them from doing what they love.
In the end, what matters is skill and knowledge. And it doesn’t matter who has it, regardless of gender or race or background.