Women Belong In Sports
It’s time to wake up and be better, world.
It’s a broken system. As a society, there are no excuses. You don’t have a leg to stand on anymore. The mistreatment that women’s sports and women who work in sports have faced for decades is no longer acceptable.
When I decided I wanted to pursue a career in sports media, I got questioned on why. I received weird looks and I was often quizzed to speak on much I knew about certain sports and teams. What I experienced is not uncommon when it comes to women wanting to pursue the sports industry.
Natalie Kerwin, a 2020 alumna of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, related to this feeling when she started pursuing the sports field and in her current position at WILX, Channel 10. She often feels as if she stands alone as she is a current sports reporter for the Lansing based station where she is the only female out of the four-person sports department.
“Sometimes you kind of feel like you’re the odd one out,” Kerwin said. “There is an underrepresentation in sports, and I feel like there is a stigma present that women aren’t as good as males. But in my time, I’ve realized that I’m good at what I do and I’m confident in my abilities. I can pitch just as good of ideas, cover different games, and have the knowledge that men do about different topics.”
Alex Sims, a sports reporter/anchor for ABC News Channel 9 in Syracuse, New York, said as a female all eyes are on you. Not only do you stand out, but she feels like because of her gender, she’s judged more for what she does.
“In my eight years in this field, knock on wood, I’ve been really lucky that I haven’t come across anything terrible that many women in this field face,” Sims said. “For me, I go home every day and continuously study and do my research because I don’t want to make any mistakes. I want to be able to prove to people that women are just as good as men in this field.”
Sidney Binger, a 2020 MSU grad in Advertising and Sports Business Management, works for USA Hockey as the Brian Fischman Intern. She said she feels she’s always the one bringing up the conversation of comfortability between her and her male colleagues.
“The minute a woman comes around, males act kind of more sheltered around in what they say and do,” Binger said. “It’s kind of backwards but I think people are often afraid to ask. When I go somewhere new, it’s always me making that first step and finding that level of comfort between me and my male counterparts.”
As women in a male dominated field, Kerwin, Sims, and Binger are not alone. Females in this industry are constantly having to prove themselves and advocate for their seat at the table.
What is it going to take for women to get what we rightfully deserve?
How am I, a young female desiring a career in the sports media industry, supposed to knock down a barrier that I have no control over because of an inherent bias over my gender?
Women involved in sports deserve an opportunity to prove themselves. For decades, we’ve seen women’s athletics be pushed to the side simply because they don’t make money. As a society we’ve been fed a false narrative that football and basketball make money.
But how many make money?
According to the NCAA, among the 65 schools in Division I that made up the Power Five conferences, Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, Pac 12, and Big 12, only 25 recorded a positive net generated revenue in 2019.
For MSU softball head coach Jacquie Joseph, athletics is more than just a way to play a sport or an industry to make money. For her, athletics is about the opportunities that it brings to her players.
“Athletics changes lives, through an education,” Joseph said. “To think of sports as a business is absurd. I’m in the industry of education. I have an opportunity in my position to make a difference, in a young person’s life.”
Joseph said the outside attention that gender bias has received lately contributes to the important role that student athletes are making in society. Student athletes and the younger generation are no longer tolerating the social injustice that is still present in daily lives.
“At the end of the day, this opportunity changes lives,” Joseph said. “If a scholarship represents access to an education, why would we deny an education to women versus men, when there’s no basis for it. These opportunities change men’s lives. They change women’s lives. We have to continue to care about our young people.”
How can you be a better advocate for female sports and women in sports?
The easy answer to this question is to give women the opportunity they deserve. Kerwin and Joseph said it starts with upper management. To make a change in this industry, air more women’s sports. Respect female athletes. Equal does not mean fair. We want the same opportunities that men have taken for granted.
A prime example that we saw in the NCAA tournament was the differences in the weight rooms, the meals and swag bags. The list goes on and on.
“The most disrespectful thing you can do to a female is lower the standard,” Joseph said. “If you respect her, hold her accountable. If you are not willing to trade places with her, why not? Fair does not mean equal; it just means fair.”
We have what it takes. Let us prove you wrong.
Kerwin said she thinks women are more than qualified to get the job done as they often bring a different perspective to the industry that forces people to think uniquely.
“Women have a lot to show for themselves, we’re naturally motherly in a way that makes athletes and coaches think differently,” Kerwin said. “We need that opportunity and resources to show that we’re knowledgeable and what we bring to the table. Those in leadership roles need to learn this or things won’t ever change.”
Women are continuing to evolve and break the glass ceiling and for Sims, she said it’s important that women who are in this field don’t get complacent.
“We want to be looked at as equals to men in this industry,” Sims said. “I think the more women continue to challenge themselves and take on roles that men have, and women haven’t had in the past is key. Do your research, continue to study, and most importantly never sell yourself short.”
Binger explained, that in order for women to keep evolving in this profession, it’s important that we don’t pigeon-hole ourselves.
“You have to be willing and open to every opportunity, even if it’s not exactly what you are looking for,” Binger said. “It will eventually come. Everyone was in the same boat. You just have to trust that you will eventually get there.”
I want to take a minute and express my gratitude for the opportunities and possibilities that I have had and my thoughts for the future.
To the women who came before me: Thank you for paving the way and helping make it possible for the opportunities that I have and will have. We couldn’t have done it without your strength and courage.
To the women who are standing beside me: I appreciate you. We are in it together. Don’t settle.
It’s time to support women’s sports and it’s time to support women in sports. Do it for your future daughter, give her the chance that she deserves.