When it comes to sports professions, whether it be sports anchors, reporters, announcers, agents or managers, the majority of these career paths are still male-dominated. However, many women who are passionate about sports are making it their mission to defy this outdated stereotype and are even doing so right here at Penn State. Just as female athletes have proven that they are as athletic and competitive as men, students on campus are showing that having a career in sports-related fields isn’t just possible for women, but something they can be immensely successful at.
Senior Erin Johnson, president of the Association for Women in Sports Media, is a broadcast journalism major with hopes of pursuing a career in public relations or marketing for a sports team. She says that while progress has been made to popularize women’s roles in the industry, women still face many challenges that clubs like AWSM seek to overcome.
AWSM is a national advocacy group for women in sports media, with collegiate chapters across the nation, that supports the growth of women in the industry both at the professional and student level. At Penn State, the chapter strives to help its members navigate the industry and empower them to pursue the careers they want, despite any stigmas that may be associated with women in sports.
“I think that this network of women and men is very empowering and shows our members, other collegiate women, and people already in these career fields that you have a support network of women who know what you’re going through, and are here to help pave the way and make change,” Johnson says.
Johnson says that she hopes men, too, will take more interest in AWSM as well because it is a discussion that shouldn’t just include women. She believes everyone in the field could benefit from learning about women in sports media.
Though many women are now pursuing sports careers, there are still stereotypes and stigmas out there that threaten to denounce women’s credibility as professionals. Johnson says she thinks a lot of this stems from social media.
“I think the most obvious source of hate against females working in sports media stems from media itself, particularly social media. I have looked at past classmates and AWSM members on social media and there will be comments to their tweets such as “you’re really pretty, but do you know anything about sports?” or “Hey, you have great legs,” Johnson says.
When it comes to combating these stereotypes, she stresses the importance of creating more awareness and cognizance of the issue as well as dialogue.
“It is important to address issues, stereotypes, stigmas, etc., in an open conversation. [AWSM] doesn’t just sit around and try to act like we won’t face any discrimination as women in this industry. Instead, we help our members prepare for these careers and together we work to actively change the culture surrounding women in sports media as best as we can,” Johnson says.
Junior broadcast journalism major, Ally Lutter, agrees that stereotypes still persist and that women are often held to a higher expectation with sports.
“I’ve told guys I was a sports fan before and they’ve quizzed me on certain coaches and teams, but if a guy says they like sports they are not questioned. The challenges have improved but are not fully gone yet,” Lutter says.
Most women in sports can agree with Johnson when she says she hopes to see more women on every newspaper staff, TV network, PR and marketing staff and as leaders of companies.
“I want people to look at a women in these jobs and not assume that they’re successful because they’re pretty, but because they’re damn good at what they do.” Johnson continues, “I think there are far more men in sports media than there are women, and I think that society is pushing for that to change, and we now have more power to make that happen when we have the world listening.”
The efforts that organizations like AWSM and many others are making are helping to pave the way for sports enthusiasts to achieve their dreams no matter what gender they may be. But, it is still an ongoing struggle, and people should be more aware of the issue the next time a girl shows an interest in sports.
“Females are facing challenges every day. It may not be every single one of us every day, but the challenges of being a women in a male dominated industry are ever present,” Johnson says.