Why we need more female sports broadcasters

By Khiana Gutierrez | Scribe

Women are starkly underrepresented in the sports media industry as they face gender stereotypes, bias, and sexism. It’s time to change how society portrays women sports broadcasters and to defy the narratives.

A voice has value. You use your voice to create narratives and impact those around you. The voice of women; anchors, reporters, and hosts have been suppressed, especially in sports news.

For decades, men have dominated the sports broadcasting world, including everything from commentary to reporting, and heated debates.

As times change, “only 10 per cent of sports editors and 11.5 per cent of sports reporters are women. It’s troubling when you think about how many females are interested in sports journalism,” wrote Paola Boivin, a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.   

More female journalists should be embraced and welcome to cover professional sports, because their commentary is just as detailed and upbeat as their male colleagues.

The history of radio sports broadcasting dates back to 1920, when historically, a white male would be the voice of ESPN. When televisions hit store shelves and then entered the household, men were the only gender to be represented on screen, because the idea of women reporting sports was bizarre and simply wasn’t part of the cultural norm.

Two decades later, female broadcasters were either succeeding or looked at as eye candy or barbie dolls.

Women had to prove they were reliant on sources when reporting on the field or court.

Men weren’t expected to prove things. It was just assumed that they had done the necessary legwork. Why do people seem to think women are eager to take the easy way out or a shortcut?

A Bleacher Report article written by reporter Doug Mead in 2010 highlights the “twelve women who pioneered the era for female broadcasters.”

Some of the honorable women include Phyllis George, an American pageant winner who then became a sportscaster for the CBS network in 1974. Jayne Kennedy, the first African-American woman to host a sports network when she replaced George. Another name was Lesley Visser, a well-known sportswriter for the Boston Globe who was voted the best female sportscaster of all time, by the American Sportscaster Association back in 2009. More women are a part of this list and each individual established their credibility by broadcasting sports.   

As women paved the way for other women to succeed, there are aspects that all female sports broadcasters encounter.

There are countless troublesome and disturbing facts about the sports media industry, many of which will undoubtedly change your perception of female sports broadcasters, and why they may seem hesitant to apply for a position.

Picture this. 

You’re a reporter. You have to interview athletes and coaches after the game. And after every question that you ask, a smirk of doubt lingers; because of your gender, because you’re a female. And these microaggressions were made by a male coach. How would you feel? Perhaps uncomfortable or dispirited.

This very scenario happened to a female reporter while Nick King – sports anchor and reporter for 3TV and CBS5 in Phoenix – was present.

An article written by Jenna Mazel, “Still expected to look like Barbie dolls’: Gender equality in sports media an ongoing battle in 2021,” encapsulates this very moment.

King explains that he was appalled, disturbed, and infuriated because he knows that a male colleague would never get treated with the amount of disrespect as the female reporter did.

A documentary aired in France titled, “I’m not a slut, I’m a journalist in 2021,” highlights various women sharing their stories based on their experiences of working in the sports media industry. They speak about “derogatory comments, lascivious advances, and sexual harassment.”

The moments where a woman has to deal with her identity, will impact her career because she can’t change who she is. Or her gender. She instead takes a look in the mirror and changes her appearance, then, how she carries herself when proposing questions. Female sports journalists continue to compromise who they are in order to be more accepted in the workplace and more accepted as an industry professional.

Vulnerable moments could make anyone think twice about their passion, their mindset, and their career.

It’s difficult advancing your career when people you don’t know have negative comments about your physical appearance and the way you carry yourself as an individual.

A report from the “Women Sports Foundation: Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and 54 Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women,” advocates for women who face turmoil and allows them to shed light on their stories. Compiled of 500 research reports, the results from a new national survey, included more than 2,300 women working in women’s sport.

The report further explores issues that women encounter based on familial obligations.

“Women entering sports journalism exhibit high levels of enthusiasm and express high levels of job satisfaction. However, sports media organizations offer little flexibility to allow women to balance work and family obligations,” the report said.

Women haven’t been treated with respect as opposed to their counterparts, which is the main reason why fewer women are seen in the sports newsrooms.  

“We need women to stay in the field. Sports journalism is better with diversity,” Boivin said.   

The only way more females can be incorporated into the industry is if many pursue their passion for sports, sharing their assets of understanding statistics, commenting on play-by-plays and asking athletes difficult questions.

Aspiring female journalists have to confront these narratives head-on. Many female sports journalists aspire to pursue their careers in their youth.

We need you. You are the future.

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