The internet and social media in particular have played an important role in giving us the tools to be able to tweet, post, and blog what we feel is ‘newsworthy content.’ For this post, I would like to discuss the issues and challenges pertaining to females working in the sport media industry.
The following quote, stated by field hockey Coach Khan in the film “Chak de India”, in a speech given to an all female team playing an all male team, touches on what this article will reflect upon. “Do not think you are playing against 16 boys. You are fighting everyone in this country who thinks girls can never match up to men, cannot hold a job as well as a man, cannot make decisions like men. You are fighting each fool who has forgotten that if a girl has given life to him, she can do anything. Anything”
Previously, I have written a paper, produce a short video segment, and a promotional campaign about this topic.However I still feel passionate about this subject which influenced me into making this post (e.g., storify article). My goal is to share what I’ve research and produced to help spread word that their is still inequalities that exist for females entering the sports media industry.
Inequality of media coverage of female athletes and women’s sports
Female athletes and women’s sports are often under-represented and unfairly framed in the media context compared to their male counterparts (Nicely, 2007). Commonly known broadcasters such as ESPN and Fox Sports devote 91% of their air time to men’s sports, 6% to women’s sports, and 2% to gender neutral topics (Sutliff, 2005). “…90.8% of feature articles in Sports Illustrated are devoted to male athletes [whereas] only 8% are dedicated to females” (Nicely, 2007, p. 9). More often, when female athletes are in the spotlight (for example, Maria Sharapova), media broadcasters and publications tend to emphasize their appearance rather than their athletic ability (Nicely, 2007). This transforms women’s sports into a hyper-sexualized entertainment avenue for men, not to be taken as seriously as male sport (Nicely, 2007).
Links to online Articles on Inequality of media cover of female athetes and women’s sports
Lack of women in leadership roles in the sport industry
Not only do female athletes lack equality in the media, but they are deemed inappropriate for the majority of the jobs behind the scenes in the sports industry. According to a recent survey by Fortune Magazine, “14.4% of executive officer positions in Fortune 500 companies within the United States were held by women” (Macleod, 2011, para 7). Although “in the professional sports world, studies have indicated that only 2% of women hold key management positions” (Macleod, 2011, para 8). A large number of highly qualified women in sports are simply not recognized for their abilities, and therefore cannot contribute positively to the development of sport (Mazhar, 2011). An unofficial report was issued in January 2013 by the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), which looked at coaching positions from all 54 universities. Of the 480 head coach positions, 408 of them were male and 72 were female (McDowell, 2013). Of those 72 positions held by women, there were only two female head coaches of men’s sport teams (McDowell, 2013). The CIS does keep track of annual statistics, however it doesn’t appear to have reviewed its gender equality policies since 2005 (Dehaas, 2011). The issue of gender inequality for coaching positions at a professional level and university level is black and white; the numbers should speak for themselves (McDowell, 2013). Yet, even though females fill only 15% of coaching positions at the CIS level, not everyone feels that inequality exists. CIS Director of Operations and Development, Tom Huisman proclaims, “I would not agree with the statement that there is gender inequality in coaching positions at the CIS level” (McDowell, 2013, para 2). The question remains how the Director can argue this from an informed position, given the lack of policy review since 2005.
Oppression of women in the sports industry
It is common for society to believe that women sportscasters are hired for reasons other than their knowledge of sports. “93% of female journalists surveyed claimed they felt pressure to maintain their appearance, constantly prove their credibility, confront inequitable treatment, work longer hours for promotions, and tolerate the network’s informal policy of hiring beauty over intelligence” (Grubb & Balliot, 2010, p. 89). These sports broadcasters must uphold a feminine touch in order to increase ratings and capture a male audience (Grubb & Balliot, 2010). This creates many obstacles and frustrations that their male co-workers do not encounter, including issues pertaining to sexual harassment (Grubb & Billiot, 2010).
Examples of situations faced by some female sports reporters include Lisa Olson, who was surrounded “by New England Patriot players in a locker room after a 1990 game who ‘made aggressive, vulgar comments’ to her” (Grubb & Billot, 2010, p. 89). Ines Sainz, a sports reporter with the network Aztech, publicized that “she was sexually harassed by several members of the New York Jets” (Westmoreland, 2010, para 1). Sainz reported that New York Jets coaches threw footballs at her, and that there were inappropriate and derogatory comments made by team members when she entered the locker room (Westmoreland, 2010). Furthermore, when these reporters complain publicly, certain members of the media counter these complaints by suggesting that their physical appearance and their attire provoke such behaviour from athletes and team members. This results in victim blaming; something that commonly occurs in a male dominated society when females who are objectified sexually by males complain about their situations. In response to this, inclusive equity seeking initiatives should be undertaken by the sport industry.
So there are many challenges females have to face while entering the sport industry. There has been many articles written on this subject in publications however, there has not been many new segments on this issue (e.g., TSN or ESPN has not made a news broadcast on this subject). However, maybe as a community we can try and promote women sport and females entering in the sport industry in a positive light. I do hope you enjoyed some of the research I found and the links to the various segments I produced on this subject to promote women sport. However, there is still more to be done. Please share and try to promote the links above. Thanks 🙂