Women Aren’t Getting a Fair Shake in Sports, Either

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By: Joanne C. Gerstner

As president of the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM), I read Allan Wolper?s column on this Web site about the sports media business with great interest. I was very encouraged to see a discussion about the lack of minorities in positions of editorial power in sports.

However, as I kept reading the column, one thought kept popping in my mind: “There are absolutely no women quoted nor even considered.” Did you forget us? Or does ?sports department? just automatically mean men?

You want to find a group that’s even more minuscule, to use your syntax, even more under-represented at the sports desk? Try women. You never consider or mention the lack of women at the top of sports departments.

How about talking to Claire Smith, a black, female assistant sports editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer? She was also one of the first black female baseball writers in country before she went into management. And I can name the six other women who have made it to the mountaintop: Cathy Henkel in Seattle, Julie Ward at USA Today, Celeste Williams in Fort Worth, Terry Taylor at The Associated Press, Kim Pendery in St. Petersburg, and Kristin Huckshorn at The New York Times.

You state that the power brokers at the top of papers tend to be white males who hire other white males to be sports editors. I ask you to consider, then, how it feels to be a woman, of any color, trying to break into management in sports. You look different, you are different, and you might not fit into the paradigm of how that editor feels his paper should look.

I’ve had members tell me stories of applying for jobs as editors or columnists, only to be told that the paper wasn’t “ready” to have a woman in that position. Others have had editors openly question them at job interviews about to their family plans or how they would juggle children and being an editor. Would a man receive these same illegal questions?

And as for stereotypes in the media: Not having women in the hierarchy of sports department can lead to amazing things. Photos of Anna Kournikova published in the sports pages without cause (but for a reason – sex sells), women’s sports being ignored, and sometimes crude jokes within the newsroom about a female athlete’s sexuality or appearance–it happens.

Dwayne Bray estimates in the Wolper column that less than two percent of sports journalists are black (men)? Well, that number is probably at least double of how many women are in the business.

Next time you want to discuss how “diversity dollars” are spent in sports staffing decisions, remember that we as women want to be players too. We need more diversity, and adding people of color and women are all part of making our business stronger.

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