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A Glass Ceiling Broke in the NFL

ESPN has recently announced that longtime reporter Beth Mowins will become the first female broadcaster to call a nationally televised game. She is also the first woman since 1987 to perform play-by-play duties for a regular-season NFL game. 

Gale Sierens, Mowins’ predecessor, launched a regional tilt for NBC, the Seahawks-Kansas City Chiefs game on Dec. 27, 1987. After her historic broadcasting, she retired from Tampa’s WFLA in 2015. Her report gained her huge popularity as the reviews were overall positive, however, she never called another NFL game even though she was offered six more games in the 1988 season.

According to her and those close to her, it was not good timing in regards to her personal life. Sierens was a newlywed and three months pregnant. The daunting task of many weeks off and on the road along with her job and motherhood proved to be too much for her, or anyone really.

“You’d be getting a great job; unprecedented for a female,” Bob Hite, her co-anchor said to her in a Tampa Bay Times interview. “On the other hand, you’d be giving up a lot.” Hite was right, and so she happily chose her family over work.

Mowins, who has called college football games and preseason Oakland Raiders games, is about to break a whole other kind of glass ceiling. Mike Tirico, the longtime ESPN “Monday Night Football (MFN)” broadcaster, now with NBC Sports, told Richard Deitsch’s SI Media Podcast in January, “Beth will show up and do a game and do as good a job as any of the men…she is a ceiling-breaker, a pioneer and there will be more women going forward.”

Hopefully his words will ring true, as the sports journalism field is severely lacking in women.

The Washington Post is the first major newspaper to have women reporting on four major professional sports beats: ice hockey, football, basketball, and baseball. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport conducted a study that showed that 88.3 percent of sports reporters are men. Men also contribute to 65 percent of evening broadcasts, and women only 35 percent.

This is a trend we see in many high-profile positions. Men do not outperform women by any means, they are just overrepresented and held to a different standard. If they make a mistake, they can brush it off, do better next time. But if a woman new to the job slips up even the smallest amount, it could be over for her. From then on she is seen as unprofessional and weak.

Women like Mowins and Sierens work against this narrative. It is a long, tedious road to equality, but the only way to combat sexism in the workforce is to infiltrate it.

Featured Image by Keith Allison on Flickr

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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