Sports have been a pillar in my life for as long as I can remember. Around the age of 10 I could name every NFL quarterback and would wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch ESPN’s College Football Game Day. Sports Center seemed to always be on in the background of my childhood, which is something I’ve grown more and more thankful for recently in the male dominant world of athletics. I never noticed when I was younger but now it’s something that I can’t ignore—qualified women are seriously underrepresented in sports.
Now, I understand that Rome was not built in a day and there are a lot of positive changes that have happened in the last decade bringing women in sports into bigger roles. This is good, but simply not good enough. Some quick research will show that most major sports companies are still largely dominated by men in all roles (reporting, producing, writing, etc.). It is hard to feel like women are being taken seriously when women with the same education and experience are not being put in larger roles. And it is not that women are not being included, it’s the roles that they are being put in.
When I turn on ESPN, Fox Sports, or any major sports media company, I am now noticing a surge of female on are personalities. And you may think, isn’t that a good thing? But if you take a closer look you will see that although there are more women on air, they are being put in mediation roles as opposed to the men who sit across from them and actually discuss and share their own opinions on current sports topics. A comment here and there may be made by the female hosts, but most of their air time is spent leading the audience to commercial break or presenting the next issue for the men to debate. It seems more like a PR push than a genuine desire to have the female population represented on major sports networks. If they really felt these women were qualified enough to be on air and wanted women to be represented in their companies, they would be in the seats where they get to share their own opinions.
Although equality for women in sports is not perfect, and it may never be, it is important to recognize the victories that are coming for women in the sports industry. Just last week, Rugby Australia announced that their full-time women’s rugby athletes (who are also the defending gold medalists) would be getting paid the exact same as their men’s team! This is a major win for women, especially coming just a short 18 months after announcers are 2016 Summer Olympics were caught commenting more on many female gymnasts and track athlete’s makeup and hair rather than their record breaking performances.
I am proud to be a young woman who is passionate about sports of all kinds and at all levels. I am thankful for women like Kristine Leahy, Sam Ponder and Erin Andrews who continue to demonstrate that women are just as capable as men are at offering thoughtful and interesting takes about sports in 2018. And I hope one day to have the opportunity to help create more opportunities in this industry.