It is inevitable that women entering sports media careers will face a patriarchal environment. While they may be accepted, some people are committed to forcing women out of this predominately “male zone.” Having an opinion on sports isn’t just for men anymore; women participate, watch, love, and work for sports. So why are they being patronized for their opinions, work, and presence in sports media?
Breaking into a career in sports media can be difficult, even more difficult if you are a woman. The sports media industry is 88.3 percent men. Although women are pushing their way into the industry, it is still an uphill battle. Women are judged unfairly and often not even considered because of the stigma that women “do not get sports.”
ESPN has put an effort to adding diversity to its workforce. It has launched eight Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), including one specifically for women. ESPN is on the forefront of a social movement in sports media but the industry as a whole has a long way to go. Women receive harassment from viewers, athletes and even colleagues for being in a male-dominated field.
“For anyone in the public eye, social media can be an ugly place,” said Doris Burke, a veteran sideline reporter and color analyst for ESPN. “The tenor of the criticism and the pointed comments that are made at female journalists are certainly different. It can be disturbing to me how sexist the comments are, how personal, the value judgments that are made. There’s just a lot of ugliness.”
Being in sports media puts you on the social media chopping block when it comes to commentary. Fans will tear each other apart in the name of their favorite sports team, so there is no holding back when it is a woman stating her opinion of a sport. As an anchor for a Chicago sports radio station and a writer for The Cauldron, Julie Dicaro, has faced multiple forms of online threats and assaults. She writes about her experiences on being harassed online for stating her opinion and being a woman in the sports industry. In the article called “Threats. Vitriol. Hate. Ugly Truth About Women in Sports and Social Media,” she speaks on the threatening tweets directed at her to the point that she felt unsafe going to work.
Its hard enough for women to break the barrier into sports media but staying motivated to stay is the hard part. In addition to the criticism women receive while trying to make it in the industry is the sexism. In this industry, they must dress carefully and act conservatively or else there is no hope of being taken seriously. The Bleacher Report’s annual segment on the “50 Hottest Female Sports Broadcasters from Around the World,” is just one example of the sexually derogatory occurring in the industry. The insults are always in regards to the women’s appearance and their sexuality. Women lose their credibility because instead of focusing on the work they produce, people focus on their physical appearance and femininity. People often challenge women’s knowledge of sports solely on their gender.
While the industry has made some strides to change, it is indeed a work in progress. You need to have thick skin to be in this field and especially dedication.