Being a female in sports journalism is hard for a number of reasons. While I’ve had the privilege of working with a number of great female reporters here at USC, I know that out in the real world, those numbers fall dramatically. It’s hard working in a field that’s entirely male-dominated.
The Women’s Media Center publishes “The Status of Women in U.S. Media,” which annually reviews numbers from various media platforms — news, broadcast, film, television, radio, sports, magazines, digital, tech, gaming and social media. In their 2015 status report, the WMC concluded that “media on all platforms are failing women.”
The WMC found that while women make up more than half the population, they report on far fewer stories than men. According to the report, women report on camera for the broadcast evening news about 32 percent of the time, appear in print 37 percent of the time and report on online news 42 percent of the time. When women are reporting, they’ll mostly write about education, health and lifestyle. They’re left out of the majority of coverage on topics like economics, sports, politics and technology.
Looking just at sports, Talkers magazine publishes the “Heavy Hundred” that ranks radio talk show hosts; there’s a list for sports hosts and news hosts. Only two women made the sports list, and 12 women made the news list. The two women in 2014 were Fox Sports Radio’s Amy Van Dyken-Rouen and CBS Sports Radio Network’s Dana Jacobson; they’re the same two that only made the list in 2013 as well. Neither women report alone — they’re both joined by male commentators. In 2015, there was one woman on the sports list: CBS Sports Radio Network’s Amy Lawrence.
Of the 78.8 percent of broadcast news stations that responded to a survey in 2014, 58.8 percent of employees are men while 41.2 percent are women, which is a slight uptick from 40.3 percent in 2013. Of all TV news directors, 30.8 percent are women, which is an improvement from the 28.7 percent in 2013 and a record high. Women general managers made up 20.4 percent, a 2.6 percent increase since 2013, also a record high.
So, there’s an optimistic angle here. The increase in women managers and directors will eventually lead to an increase in women reporters. These women in leadership and production roles can pave the way for those younger than them to be successful in the field. That is something that can start as early as the college level.
I had the pleasure of working Annenberg’s Discover USC event. As sports director for Annenberg Media, I was able to talk to a plethora of prospective students about the opportunities available for pursuing sports journalism at USC. After the first couple of hours meeting and mingling with students and their families, I was impressed that I talked with a greater number of women than men. There’s the optimism. As more women pursue sports journalism, the ratio in the professional world will eventually even out. It’s going to take time, but it’s entirely possible.
As a woman holding a leadership position and working as a reporter, I’ve had a number of encounters where I’ve been talked down to, brushed off or invalidated simply because of my gender. It’s frustrating to deal with, but, unfortunately, it’s a part of the job and something that I’ve learned to deal with since I started reporting in my first year at USC. I do believe that those instances have made me a tougher and better reporter, teaching me to hold my ground and stay firm in my opinions.
After meeting all of the prospective students, working alongside my female peers at USC and following in the shadows of the people that I look up to in the industry, I have hope that slowly things are changing. We have the ability to pave a course for those younger than us to have success in the industry and to not have to endure the inequity we are faced with today.
One day, being a female sports reporter won’t be rare, and the job will be difficult only for the reasons it should be difficult: crazy work schedules and the strain of travel.
Jodee Storm Sullivan is a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. Her column, “The Storm Report,” runs Tuesdays.