The Washington Post is the first major newspaper to have women reporting on four major professional sports beats. These include ice hockey, football, basketball, and baseball. According to a study done by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 88.3 percent of sports reporters are men.
A recent study conducted by The Women’s Media Center found that men contribute to 65 percent of evening broadcasts, and women only 35 percent. The 2015 report states that just in 2013, female journalists were least likely to write or report on politics, criminal justice, science, sports or technology. Culture, education, health, lifestyle and religion were the more likely topics for women journalists. The number of women on these beats ranged from 41.3 to 54.6 percent.
“It’s not necessarily harder for women to get a job in journalism, it is just harder for women to move up,” ESPN sports reporter Jackie MacMullan says about her personal experience. It’s the typical double standard. “Boys will be boys”, but girls have to be absolutely perfect every single time. There is no room for error as a woman in the workforce.
While men have more journalism jobs, women outnumber them in journalism classes. MacMullan continues, “Women don’t get a second chance like some men do in this profession, they have to be more professional than the men.”
In an interview with their own newspaper, The Washington Post, Redskins reporter Liz Clarke, Wizards reporter Candace Buckner, Nationals reporter Chelsea Janes, and Capitals reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan share some insight on entering this male dominated industry.
Janes states, “I tend to be of the opinion that standing in locker rooms with multi-millionaire athletes waiting for them to put on their pants so you can ask them questions is a challenging thing to do for anyone. But I do think challenges exist for me that might not for some of my male colleagues. I think it takes more for me to prove myself.”
She then goes on to say that there is sometimes a level of condescension she has to endure from those who are unaware of her knowledge on the subject, but she acknowledges that the women who came before her probably had it much worse.
Buckner agrees in her response, saying, “If you take one look at me, I’m sure the knee-jerk perception is that I know nothing about sports. But you overcome that challenge by knowing your stuff and by being good.” Being the only woman in a competitive workspace full of men comes with many challenges, including always having to be ahead of the curve in order to be taken seriously.
Clark, who has been working for The Washington Post since 1988, says “I know my ability, I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses. And I’ve never been one who feels like I have to fit in or periodically take stock if I’m one of ten women in this room, etc.”
Seeing these four women reporting on sports for such a major news source is a rarity. However, there is a growing trend for more female inclusion as women take back the power they deserve. Hiring these women has also proven beneficial for business at the Post.
“They see stories differently than most male reporters, and that presents opportunities for a different perspective on a male professional sports team, and that’s just terrific. As a result, the readers are better served,” says Editor-in-Chief Matt Vita, who hired all four of them.
Although the statistics can be daunting, these four women and many like them are making great strides to close the gap between men and women in sports. One piece of advice Clark gives is, “Don’t apologize for being female as you go about your job.”
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