I’ll never forget the first time it happened.
I was in my third year as an Athletic Communications professional (or whatever people are calling it these days) and it caught me off completely off guard. But that exact moment is when it hit me: people still don’t understand how women can work in sports. It’s 2016 and people still don’t get it.
For some background, the issue I’m referring to has occurred multiple times throughout the last year and I don’t suspect it’ll stop any time soon. But the first time, I’ll probably never forget. I was on my first road trip with my baseball team and a student from the opposing school asked me if I “got paid” for my job. He assumed, as he explained later, that he thought I was a student manager.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m younger than most of my colleagues, though I don’t exactly broadcast it. And although I’m taller than the average woman, I’m not “tall” by any means, so I do kind of blend in with the student population. In all honestly, my voice is a little like that of a middle schooler, so confusing me for a student is pretty understandable, but his question of my age didn’t bother or offend me. The issue, rather, was his absolute certainty that I was not an employee - that I was only along for the trip and sitting in the press box with my laptop open because I was a student.
Let me start by saying that yes, thankfully, I do get paid. And no, I’m not a student (anymore). My job requires me to attend baseball games and I’ve learned through my travels that many people are confused by that. But why? Unfortunately, it boils down to the fact that I’m a woman.
I’m sure my age has something to do with it as well and until I grow older and look older, I’m confident that people will still ask me the same questions. Are you a student? What’s your major? Do you live on campus? (Full disclosure: I actually had a full conversation with a man on a plane once about my job and what I do, and then he asked me what my major was… So maybe people will never get it.)
Point blank: it’s 2016 and people still can’t comprehend that women work in sports. We have female sports anchors and sideline reporters and writers and bloggers and announcers and we even have female Athletic Directors but women working in sports still isn’t the new “normal.”
In my first two years in this profession, I worked A LOT. Though I work at a really large Division I school now, my previous experiences came from some smaller D2 shops where no one really questioned my age or profession because our circles were much smaller and everyone in the press box or on the sideline knew my role. But now that I’m a small fish in a big pond, representing one of the most prestigious schools in the country, some people can’t fathom that I have a job and get paid.
As I stated earlier, I’m sure this behavior will continue, and I can’t blame people for perceiving my very real youth. I’m not even sure if I could tell you the last time it happened, but I’ll never forget that first time. It’s become my driving force, and it’s made me proud of who I am and what I do.
These continued questions don’t upset me anymore. Instead, they inspire me to be the best version of myself – to excel at my job and gain respect not just for my own benefit, but for all of my female counterparts out there working hard to make it in a male-dominated profession. I know that whether it’s my age or my ability, people will always question me; it’s up to me to decide how I respond.