In a crowded room of approximately 75 sports reporters attending the Providence College press conference at the Big East Tournament semifinals, four of them are women.
In a strictly male-dominated industry, women are starting to break through into the sports media world. However, that was not always the case, and some female reporters still say that there is a tremendous lack of women covering sporting events.
In major publications today, a dramatically higher number of men work in sports. At USA Today, only 10 of the 72 staff members are women. At the Los Angeles Times, only five of the 37 sports staff members are women.
Ava Wallace, a college sports writer for the Washington Post, said that during college she was the first female sports editor for the Daily Northwestern in years. She said that most of the scrutiny she gets about being a female sports reporter comes from the fellow reporters.
“I think that, especially the older ones, they aren’t used to working around women,” Wallace said. “They’ll make comments about your appearance or say things like, ‘Oh we know why you were able to get that quote.’ It all sticks out in your mind no matter how many times it happens.”
A former female sports writer who attended the press conference, but could not use her name in the article for fear of retribution from her employer, said that when she was working as a sports writer, she was never thought of as being a writer.
“When I was writing, there were no women doing it at all,” she said. “When I was covering games here, veteran sports writers like Dick Young and others thought I was the waitress and were asking me to get them sandwiches and stuff. I had to be more patient with people, and I just had to know my stuff.”
Shannon Russell, who has now been in the media industry for 19 years, used to be the Xavier beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Today, she works at the The Athletic. She said that when she walks into stadiums to cover games, some people think twice about letting her in.
“I can’t tell you how many times people will triple check my credential because they think I’m not supposed to be here, but it’s been like that my entire career,” she said.
For some women in the field, one of the toughest things can be attending large events and press conferences where they are the only women in the room. Wallace said that it sticks out to her, especially when covering football.
“It is a really regular thing to look down a row at a press conference and look around and see there are no women in here,” Wallace said. “Everyone is a white man, and there’s not a lot of women of color. It’s something you see because every time you walk into a room, it’s the first thing that jumps out at you.”
Russell said that even though things aren’t perfect, she has seen an improvement in the amount of women in the sports media industry since she first started working in 2002.
“When I first started covering the Cincinnati Bengals, there were no women there,” Marshall said. “Now in 2017, I’ll go into the locker room and we’ve got lots of women. I’ve seen it grow tremendously.”
Russell said that if there is any hint of gender discrimination, she still comes to work confident that she can do her job.
“I think that I go in with a stiff upper lip knowing that I’m supposed to be here,” Russell said. “I’m an award-winning writer and I think it depends on the situation. At Madison Square Garden, you’ve got security and bouncers who maybe aren’t used to seeing so many women, and then they pause, but I still have to make sure that my [credentials] are out.”
The woman whose name cannot be mentioned said she thinks that women can break through the industry even more in the future.
“I have daughters, and the thing that’s different about your generation was that you were raised by women like us, so you should get after it,” she said.