Posted by: Emma Carys Dixon | February 6, 2020

Throw Like a Girl: The Labyrinth Females Face in Sports Journalism

Women face a lot of adversity when it comes to sports. There is the pay gap, where women athletes get paid less than male athletes. Young girls tend to drop out of sports at a faster rate than boys. Males sports tend to make more money and get more attention than women sports. But there is another issue regarding females in sports that does not get as much attention: the lack of female sports broadcasters.

The reason I am most interested in this topic is because it is what I currently do for my on-campus job and what I want to pursue as my full time career. I was interested to see what the field looked like and potential issues I would have to face. I am an on air commentator for the CNUSports department. Most of my colleagues in higher up positions and bosses are all men. The few women who do work with me are mostly lower positions, like camera operators. It really made me question the field I want to enter.  

In 2017, Dionne Miller, a female sports anchor and reporter, did a Q&A interview where she answered questions relating to being a woman in sports journalism. One of the quotes that stood out most to me is Miller said, “As a woman in sports, I already knew I have to push harder. I have to know more, I have to research more, I have to work harder. I can’t make as many mistakes.” This quote was surprising and shocking to me. To hear a woman openly admit that she has to work twice as hard as men is not something that is talked about often. It is often not discussed. I feel like women just work harder because they know it is what they have to do in order to be almost as successful as men.

This quote drew me back to the reading by Eagly & Carli (Chapter 7) and discussion we had earlier in the semester where we talked about how women often have to outperform men in order to be seen as equally competent. Miller’s quote just reaffirms that women know they are expected to work harder to be seen at the same level as men. It is upsetting because men can do the bare minimum and women can work twice as hard and they will be viewed in the same light. To me it reinforces that gender equality still does not exist. Why do we expect more from women than we do men? Why is it an “unwritten rule” that women are expected to outperform men? How can we work toward creating a more just workplace and eliminating extra expectations that are placed on women?

Another interesting part from Miller’s Q&A was when she talked about how she is most proud of being a working wife and mom. This was impactful for me because it shows that women can be both the idealizes stay at home mom but also have careers. It reminded me of the Fontini article (The “bitch” and the “ditz”) when it talked about how Sarah Palin managed to achieve a balance between family life and her career. It shows that the outdated idea that women should stay at home to take care of children is no longer acceptable. It is evident that women can be successful in their careers and maintain a family life. Women should not be placed in a position where they have to choose between their jobs or their families. 

Throughout her interview Miller acknowledges that there is inequality in the sports broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to pay. There is a large discrepancy between how much male broadcasters make and how much female broadcasters make. She also talked about how there is a huge difference in the number of male broadcasters when compared to the number of female broadcasters. Women are seriously outnumbered in sports journalism statistically speaking. It is one of many male-dominated fields where women have trouble getting their foot in the door. This got me thinking about what we talked about in class and a previous blog post on quotas. It made me wonder if installing a quota for the number of women in sports broadcasting would be beneficial? Or would it cause problems? What would be some of the positives and negatives of adding a quota? Why do we not think women can be as good and knowledgeable as male sports broadcasters?

The final thing I found striking about her interview was when she talked about how women sports broadcasters are judged based on how they dress and how their make-up looks. Women in sports broadcasting are expected to have perfect hair and make-up and dress in a particular way. Women broadcasters are expected to be more eye candy for viewers whereas men do not have these expectations placed upon them. Male broadcasters are expected to know their information. Female broadcasters are expected to dress and act a certain way while also knowing their information. How do these additional expectations take a toll on women? How can they perform their best when they are constantly having to conform to certain gender expressions? How can we expect women to lead effectively in any field of profession when they have more expectations placed upon them than their male counterparts?

All in all, this entire interview with Dionne Miller got me thinking about all male-dominated fields, whether it is sports or law or STEM. Why are there still male-dominated? Why do we think men are more “qualified” than women for these “masculine” jobs? What changes can be made to make it less difficult of a labyrinth for women to get through to reach top positions in these fields or get paid equally?

*To access the Q&A interview with Dionne Miller, click on the embedded link in the article or visit https://www.nbcsports.com/bayarea/csn-tomboy/advice-females-pursuing-career-sports-broadcasting


Responses

  1. In 1960 the first televised presidential debate occurred between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. In my freshman year AP U.S history class I learned that the physical appearance of the candidates had some effect on the outcome of the polls. Kennedy, concerned about his image, tanned the weeks leading up to the televised debate and had his team apply makeup on him before the cameras went live. Nixon on the other hand declined the offer to wear stage makeup. Nixon looked pale, tired, and overall less attractive than opponent Kennedy. I bring this up because you mentioned how women must have perfect hair, makeup, and dress but it is also important for men to be appealing to the eye as well. I think that society has made appearance a part of the broadcasting job for both men and women. I also believe that it is definitely harder for women to meet people’s standards when it comes to presentations. A woman’s appearance is also more easily criticized than a mans is which is wrong. Broadcasters should be hired solely on their qualifications.

    I find your post very interesting. It is very obvious to me that women are outnumbered in sports broadcasting. When you mentioned possibly instilling a quota my immediate response was that, yes that would be a great way to get more equal representation of women in sports. Beyond my initial reaction though, I do think that a quota could cause trouble among men and women. It could cause backlash with men because having a quota might make men doubt a woman’s ability even more. People might question whether the women got the job based on her qualifications or because they needed to meet numbers. Additionally, after meeting this quota, employers may feel even less inclined to hire women because the numbers have been met.

    Women are just as capable as men to do sports broadcasting. Like you said, there are still so many male dominated fields based on old gender stereotypes and the roles that women used to hold in society. I think it is important for these strong and qualified women to be recognized by society so that people realize the capabilities women hold.

  2. I am one of the least athletic person I know. Growing up my parents signed me up for T-ball and the home video footage is extremely embarrassing. It just has never really been my thing. However I always admired girls in my school who could hit home runs, make the three-pointers, and run laps around me on the track. But when I went to sports events, what games did I go to? Football and boys basketball – there weren’t student sections for the girls sports team games because not enough students went to them. Why?

    I think this goes back to living in a gendered world. Relating to the question you posed about why sports broadcasting is still male dominated, I think the answer here lies in what is comfortable and understood as acceptable by society. Sports play into the masculine stereotype perfectly. It requires grit, brute strength, and sweat. Women can definitely have these attributes, but men are expected to have them. Have you ever seen those glittery gym shirts that say “I don’t sweat, I sparkle” in the ladies section? Sweating is a bodily function but I guess females are expected to produce sparkles from their pores (Not trying to offend anyone who has worn one of these shirts they have just always irritated me in this sense). Society has always expected aggressiveness from boys, but for girls this has not always been the case – even when they can play just as well or better than male-counterparts. Naturally then, society would be drawn to the sports world being dominated by men.

    Just as in any other field, it takes time for women to prove their place in male-dominated jobs. The first couple of women just feel unnatural to society. As we’ve noted in class before, people get uncomfortable when things go against societal norms. I think we are making progress though. Hearing about Doris Burke gave me encouragement that things are changing, even if the change is frustratingly slow. It’s difficult and unfair, but we need women like you to continue to pave the way! I admire any female entering a male-dominated field. You are going to make a difference for future girls with a passion for sports broadcasting and that gives me hope.

  3. I love what you wrote and I have SO much respect for the field you are going into. You made me think a lot about the roles of women in sports.

    When I was 16 years old, I was at a family friend’s house watching a boys’ lacrosse game on television. At the time, I was managing a girls’ lacrosse team at my high school and LOVING it. I have also not been a very athletic person, so getting to encourage these girls in a sport they were so passionate about was a dream come true. I remember watching the boys’ lacrosse game and mentioning to our family friend how I was managing a girls’ team and how it was so much fun. The family friend then bluntly stated that girls’ lacrosse is “boring” because there is not as much “action” as in boys’ lacrosse. He also said that girls did not do as much checking with their lacrosse sticks, which to him was the point of lacrosse (I still do not understand why men believe that violence/physical contact is such an epic part of sports but I digress). After hearing my family friend say this to me, I ran upstairs and cried in the guestroom. My parents did not understand why I was so upset by a “stupid” comment this man said to me. They told me to stop being so sensitive and to move on.

    I tell this story because I still remember that moment, 5 years later, when I was painfully aware of how women are not credited for what they do. It made me realize something very hurtful: there are men who will never be supportive of my actions and my accomplishments, no matter how hard I try or how prestigious the accomplishment. I do not say that to be mean towards men in general, because I know from my own relationships that great men exist and ARE fighting for equality. But I do know that that one moment in time has frustrated me endlessly since.

    I believe that there need to be more women in sports and sports broadcasting. When the U.S. Women’s soccer team won the World Cup, all of a sudden there were millions of people cheering for them. This diverse and strong group of women was suddenly supported by the people who likely did not even watch their previous games. Granted, I did not watch a lot of their previous games but I also would have gladly supported them, no matter the outcomes. I was very encouraged by the team’s win and by how they chose to capitalize on it by pushing for equal pay for female athletes. It would have been much easier to celebrate the win and move on, but they did not and they fought for what has always been rightfully theirs. This team is a testament to the fact that women will not stop until what was always meant to be our own is finally in our hands.

    As for expectations, I also see how much women are expected to just “look pretty” in sports broadcasting. Do all of these gorgeous women actually want that much makeup on or are they forced to wear it to get some attention? What is the pressure like as a woman on a court or field that is dominated by men? When we watched that Doris Burke interview in class, I was struck by how so many male athletes wanted HER to cover their win. I do not think they did this out of pity or obligation. I think they respect her authority and see her for what she is: not the best woman broadcaster, but the best broadcaster, period.

    I am glad there are brave women like you entering this field with knowledge of how hard it will be. This fight is not over and we will continue to see progress, I believe.

    Article about U.S. Women’s soccer team win: https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/07/football/uswnt-world-cup-victory-analysis-spt-intl/index.html

    • *Sorry, I meant respect for YOU going into this field. 🙂

  4. I must say I have never exactly been an “athletic” girl, but I always used to love watching sports when I was younger, and truthfully I never noticed the lack of women in this field until I was much older, in recent years. Sadly enough, the idea that there were not many women in the sports broadcasting industry never seemed that odd to me. This is definitely due to the fact that, from a very young age, girls are taught that sports are more for boys than for girls, making it seem strange to be an athletic female. However, I have always been jealous of the athletic girls wishing I was more like that, so I have a lot of respect for women who put themselves into potentially more uncomfortable situations because they know they can do it.

    The part of this piece I really loved was when you discussed the discrepancy between work ethic among men and women. I have never really thought about this before, but now that I do I can recognize how absolutely true this is. Women feel as though they have to work significantly harder than men to overcompensate for the fact that they are female, which is absolutely stupid. The fact that we feel we need to “fix” something we are proud to be is completely idiotic.

    I also find it very interesting that women have a bigger fear of “messing up” than men do, and again this is something I have not through of before but thinking about it now makes me recognize how many times I have felt this in my own life. One specific example I can think of, is in high school we use to do math competitions, where you basically went head to head with someone on a calculus problem and whoever correctly solved it the quickest would move on to another round. I have done many of these competitions in the past and I have won and lost. However, I can recall then when I lost to another girl, it really didn’t seem to bother me but when I lost to a boy, it absolutely mortified me. I was so embarrassed! It’s sad that this is how I felt, and I am sure how many other girls feel, but I have hope that this will change. Thus why I have so much respect for women going into male dominated fields, so more power to you!

  5. The beginning of this blog post talking about how women are more likely to quit sports then men reminded me of the Gatorade commercial Keep Her In the Game. The commercial talks about how girls are more likely to quit sports by the age 14 then boys. In addition, the blog post raises into question the almost blatant sexism of sports broadcasting. This is visible from our TV screens, just the other day one of my classmates gave a presentation on Doris Burke, one of the few women who is a well know female sports broadcaster. But this sexism calls into question other areas where sports broadcasting could potentially project their sexist views. For example, according to the Journal of Broadcasting and Electric Media “the two programs (ESPN and CNN sports center) were found to devote only five percent of their airtime to women’s sports.” Not only do the female broadcasters who went to college and had internships in order to get the positions they have, they also have to fight for screen time. However, so do the women who are playing the sport, pushing their body everyday just to get the same recognition as men who are playing similar sports and, in many cases, do not get the same recognition. From my understanding of how sports broadcasting works it appears that its common for people such as Doris Burke, to start reporting on the sport they used to play. If women are only getting five percent of screen time playing a sport, than the amount of positions opened for women to broadcast a sport they have played in the past, are fewer and shorter. From previous readings and discussions, we have had in the past we have highlighted the potential benefits and harm that quotas for women in certain positions can bring. However, a new approach instead of quotas for the number of women in sports broadcasting could be increasing the amount of screen time women sports are shown on television therefore giving more women the opportunity to broadcast on a sport they have played in the past.
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08838159709364387?journalCode=hbem20

  6. First off, I would like to say that it is so impressive that you are taking the career path of sports broadcasting. You are creating change in the field and it is the first step to making the field more open to women.

    The gender gap in the field of sports broadcasting has been an ongoing problem. Originally men were the only ones doing sports broadcasting because they were deemed to know more about the sport. Katie Sowers addressed this in her ad during the Super Bowl, she addressed this problem and said that “all it takes is one” to create change. As a coach, Katie Sowers dresses in pants and jackets, polos, and other masculine-deemed clothing. She does not follow the gender stereotype for women of dressing up and wearing a bunch of makeup. Obviously for sports broadcasters the norm is quite different because they are in front of the camera, but even in her interviews she avoids gendered clothing and wears what is comfortable to her. She is making major movements in how women are viewed in the sports industry, even carrying her team to the Super Bowl.

    Since the sports industry has been male dominated for so long, it will take time for women to fully integrate. However the more women that start now and normalize their position in sports broadcasting or even coaching, the more young girls will see their impact and be more inclined to follow this career path if they so desire.

  7. When reading your post, I was reminded of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, and their fight for equal pay. Although the WNT is one of the most talented in the world and has won multiple world cups, they are still not paid anywhere near their male counterparts. Many arguments for why this happens has been made, one of them being that the women’s games do not get watched as much as the men’s games. But, I believe that this goes back to the way that we prioritize sports, not only in putting certain sports on higher priority than others, but also in prioritizing men’s sports over women’s. This is often ingrained in our society, and I think one of the ways that we can improve this would be to celebrate more female athletes, and change the narrative about women in sports. There are so many things that need to be done to change the narrative, but a lot of it goes back to the foundation that we learn as children. Are we encouraging young women to pursue sports? Are there equal opportunities for young girls to get involved in sports? Are there the scholarships necessary for these young women to be able to achieve what they would like to? These are questions we need to be asking and I believe that once we change the narrative around female athletes the narrative will change with broadcasters as well.

  8. I think putting a quota on the number of female sportscasters will have positive and negative effects. On the positive side, there will be more representation in sports and we can get different perspectives (and opinions because most sportscasters favor a certain team or player) and hear different voices. Voice is critical, we pinpoint certain sportscasters by how they sound or specific phrases they use (like Mike Breen’s “Bang! when someone hits a three pointer) I think having diverse female voices would be a nice mix in sportscasting. A negative could be that the quota as seen as the bare minimum and once ESPN or another broadcasting company meets it they’ll say “ok we have enough women”. This will spark people to say that there shouldn’t be quota and the companies will be scrutinized and it’ll all bad for business and maybe sports as a whole (because television loves ratings). Adding more women could also increase the likelihood that men could sexualize them. Men would have more incentive to watch their sport because their “favorite” female sportscaster is on. It’s sad but it happens. To answer why we believe men are more knowledgeable about sports than women are, i think the idea has been perpetuated through social media and television. The first thing that comes to mind is shows or videos that show a girl asking a guy what everything is during a game (for example when a girl asks, “what’s a touchdown? and things like that). It’s a mixture of perpetuating the idea and sticking to all women. Of course there are girls who know what a touchdown is and can probably tell me more about my favorite teams that i know. Acknowledging those women will be a step forward in loosening this stereotype. As far as the pay gap is concerned, most of the reasons why it is “justified” is because athletically the men are more entertaining and bring in more attendance and sales. But that is the only thing that separates them. Women athletes tend to have better IQ when it comes to their sport and purists acknowledge it. Men rely on athleticism more than IQ and there are DEFINITELY female athletes who can outperform men by a longshot. I’m not sure how it would be done but i believe in the future female sports will become more or as entertaining and recognized and the pay gap will decrease.


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