Every Tuesday, I walk into a studio, where for nearly the entire day up until showtime, I am the only woman present. The conversations throughout the afternoon range from new Star Wars episodes to thoughts on the next offensive coordinator. I sit quietly as I start every question with a cautious “Umm…” Rather than my typical outspoken and forthcoming nature presenting itself, I become a second-guesser. Being a female television producer for a school-based sports show gives this situation more context — women in sports media are extremely outnumbered.
ESPN released an article this fall that despite a 67% increase in women sports editors from 2018 to 2021, 79.2% of the sports editors were white and 83.3% were men. In the sports world, people know that “stats don’t lie.” These numbers show more than an alarming ratio, though.
Even with an increase in the number of women present in the sports world, the acknowledgement of their presence is often lacking. Upon a simple YouTube search of “female sports broadcasters” my results appeared with “Top 10 Hottest Female Sports Broadcasters” among other appalling video compilations.
I think the worst part of that search was that I was not surprised in the slightest. Women who spend their time in front of the camera, in a field where more than 90% of the coverage is catered toward men, endure this objectification and criticism every day. It is no wonder that the number of women in sports is so low. Who wants to feel like that?
Despite my lack of on-camera work, being in that environment is not entirely welcoming. I might know just as much as anyone else and have ideas that are just as valuable — whether or not I feel that way, is an entirely different conversation.
Being a proud woman in this field, I have begun to observe my surroundings. I notice when the entire show is flooded with men’s basketball and football. I notice when we have three men sitting at the desk. I notice that when I speak up, I am heard, but I am not always listened to.
In a conversation with photographer and filmmaker Tara Pixley, I asked her how to get my voice heard in an environment where I am supposed to be calling the shots, but am always pushed away. She lightly laughed and after offering insight said, “You’re going to be doing that for the rest of your life, and I commend you for going into that field.”
I make constant pushes for more women’s coverage. These girls are Big Ten athletes, performing at the Division I level. During Women’s History Month, I consistently put in the idea of a show dedicated solely to our women’s sports teams. Unfortunately, the month of March also means one of the largest sporting events of the year — March Madness. A woman-centric sports show was masked behind their bracket bonanza that they felt was “essential” to the show.
I am understanding of the fact that March Madness is one of the most electric times in sports all year. It receives so much coverage because of its history and its large viewership. But we are a school-based broadcast — and to be transparent, we receive no more than 40 views per week. If we won’t cover the sports and athletes that already receive no coverage, who will?
We spend the first half of the year covering football, and the second half men’s basketball, with trickles of women’s sports in between. When anchors were asked to debate on the woman athlete of the year, it was approached with not just a lack of knowledge, but a lack of energy — both disappointing and somehow still not surprising. Certain portions of the show are often cut because our anchors can ad-lib for hours. They finished the debate in less than three minutes.
I am not going to discredit the entire crew and say that they don’t value the idea of female representation in sports media. We are recognized constantly for being a part of an extremely male-dominated arena. But as a producer, where my job is to call the shots, there is a lack of notice in the power my position holds.
I may not know every single Illini quarterback in history. I may not even know our quarterback from last season. I don’t have a vast knowledge of college sports, but I have enough awareness to notice that girls are not up on our screen every Tuesday night. Just because I do not know everything, doesn’t mean I don’t have ideas, and good ones at that.
In hopes of one day seeing the career of sports media as an environment for women to thrive rather than fight, I will continue to produce. I enjoy being a part of something that I have the potential and power to change. I don’t want women to hear “she knows her stuff, for a girl” anymore. She knows her stuff, period.