My Experience with Sexism in Sports

This summer I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to leave Hawai’i, my home, and move to Texas to work for a baseball team under COVID-19 conditions. I am extremely lucky to have had this experience because there were virtually no sports happening in the country, so I can say I worked for one of the only teams playing baseball in the entire country. And, I love almost every minute of it.

 

I have known since I entered college that women are treated differently in the sport industry. I’ve always said we have to work twice as hard for half of the recognition. This does not deter me, it only motivates me. In my college career up to that point I had really only experienced slight sexism in that I am one of the minorities in the Sport Management program at my school. I’ve had classes where I am the only girl in the class. Again, this has never posed an issue to me.

 

When I arrived in Texas and met the interns there were four women and 11 men on the intern team. Everyone was very welcoming and I felt like I had a family instantly. I work in social media and merchandising which is a more female-dominated sector of sport. I worked alongside another female intern, we called ourselves the “social squad.” As the summer went on, I realized that my male counterparts did not believe that the social media team worked as hard as they did. This is something I do not have to explain, but social media is quite literally a 24/7 job. There were times where we’d have intern lunches and my coworker and I could not attend because we had tasks to complete, and times I’d be up until 1am making sure a graphic was perfect for our social media because we gained quite a large following being one of the only sports being played in the country. Regardless, my male coworkers would constantly trash us saying comments along the lines of “the girls never do anything.”

 

This, obviously, became frustrating the longer the summer went on because there was evidence that the efforts my coworker and I were putting in were actually paying off. In fact, the owner of the team stated multiple times the multiple social media platforms we ran were the best they have ever been. The engagement was high, we had more than doubled the following in a month, and we were bringing in customers.

 

Many other minor things would happen such as me calling some of our season ticket holders and them asking to speak to a man instead of me. This didn’t bother me, but took me aback as it is 2020, but again, I was in Texas; the owner of the league repeatedly made inappropriate sexual remarks to me and my female coworkers, but never our male coworkers, our fans would make snarky comments to me, sexual advances were made towards me by higher ups, and even scouts would talk down to me. What really made me realize that women are still not seen as equal in the sporting industry was an attack from a fellow intern.

 

In no way do I mean to throw this man under the bus, as I believe that every part of the intern team was critical to making the season a success, but his contract stated he was to be the mascot all summer, and he did a very subpar job at it. One day the other girl in the social squad and I missed an intern lunch as we had a number of things to complete before our gates opened five hours later. One of the reasons the boys went out to lunch was because they had to pick up a pack of coupons that were going to be in our season ticket holders coupon package that came with their season tickets, which were to be picked up that night. Not only did they forget to pick up the coupon pack, they got back to work late, and one of them asked “Well, what did you even do today?” It’s not like I had to explain myself to the mascot, but I came to work an hour early to begin game day prep, do my own tasks, and with running some errands for the ticketing interns. I was so shocked by the fact that he was under the assumption that I did not do anything. I asked him where he got that idea. He responded, “me and the rest of the boys don’t think you do anything.” The ways in which I felt just so insulted and disrespected were beyond me. I handled this the best as I could by removing myself from the situation before it escalated. I could not believe he had just said that none of the boys I work with think I do anything. As a woman in sport it is so disheartening to be discredited for your work when in reality you’re working as hard as you can. I cannot put into words the hurt I felt being told, people I considered my friends, did not respect the work I was doing.

 

Now, most of the male interns did talk to me and reassure me that they do respect my work, and understand that social media is, in fact, important. Nevertheless, it is discouraging to hear it in the first place.

 

Intrinsically, I know that I work hard, and the work I do is good. Behavior like this stems from the organizational culture. Remember when I mentioned the boys forgot to pick up the coupon pack? It was blamed on me and my female coworker. We were reprimanded that “we had lost the attention to detail,” and that “we were lucky we still had our jobs.” It was then our responsibility to fix the problem the boys had caused. The organizational culture that allowed for behavior like this should not be tolerated, no matter what industry. What truly SUCKED the most was that our boss was a woman. One would think that she’d be “on our team,” helping us where she could, but instead she was really against women. She had once said she was “the least feminist person” she knew, which was evident in the way she acted towards the women versus the men. In addition to this, my boss was exceptionally influential on our team photographer. Our team photographer would turn around and spread that information about me and my social media coworker to the baseball players, coaches, and coaches wives. That was a level of unprofessionalism that I’ve never experienced. A culture like this in the workplace can become hostile and uncomfortable. When the issue of my coworker attacking me was addressed in our run down for the night, it was turned on me for being put off about it. It was clear women were not respected in this organization.

 

My takeaway is that I am much more valuable to an organization than I was given credit for, most women are. I look forward to the future where I can find a company that will appreciate my work. The future is bright for women in sport, especially with how many strong women are coming out of my program at The University of Tampa alone.

 

P.S. I sold the most tickets out of all the interns including ticketing, sales, and promotions interns ;)

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