Finding Respect and Overcoming the Targeting of Women in Sports is an excerpt from a two-part feature written by Katie Gwinn Hewitt and Olivia Coiro for CoSIDA 360 Magazine.
Exploring "Sparkles & Sports" Issues can be found here or in print on page 21 in the February 2017 issue of CoSIDA 360.
Breaking into the sports industry is no easy task. A field that is tightly connected through networking that oftentimes has more job seekers than job hunters, seemingly everyone has to go the extra mile just to get an entry-level job. But it seems that breaking into this industry has been even more challenging for women, highlighted by the national media often telling the horror stories of attacks against and misogyny towards females.
Despite us more than a decade and a half into the “enlightened age” of the 21st Century, these horror stories continue. Everyone has heard of former ESPN and now FOX Sports personality Erin Andrews being unknowingly filmed while naked in her hotel room by an obsessed fan whom later shared it with the world on the internet. Last April, ABC News shared a video of men reading mean and harassing tweets to female sports reporters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro. It was an eye opening video for me.
All three of the aforementioned females are in the national spotlight and while the attacks against them have made national headlines, so has a national compassion for them. But what about those of us who work in sports on a much smaller and intimate level?
Thankfully I have never really been targeted – at least publicly – for being a female in the sports industry. I am lucky. I have heard horror stories from others and I always think how fortunate I am to work around such amazing people. But that does not mean my career has been wholly without those moments.
I have had a head coach tell me he thought I was too young to do my job literally in my first month as a full time employee. I have had student-athletes think they can out-wit me about stats because, “I play the sport you just watch it.” I have even been told by another sports information professional that I only got into Division I because I was a “pretty young girl.” Now as true or false as that may be, it stuck with me. Why can’t I get a job because I am a young professional that works hard? Nope, I just got the job because I’m a girl.
The worst story, and if this is the worst I can only reiterate how lucky I have been, was when I was working a baseball game at a former job. Baseball and softball are the most controversial sports I have ever worked with when it comes to score keeping.
Well an athlete on my team reached first on an error. It was an error, clear as day. (Coach agreed that I made the right call after the game.) No more than 30 seconds later does a man come over and asked who was running the scoreboard. I politely told him that my student-worker (also a female) was but she was putting up what I told her. He told me I was wrong and it was a hit. He also added a snide comment about how this is why girls shouldn’t be around sports. I turned to him and said, “Sir, this is my job to score the game. It is scorer’s discretion which means I am going to make the call that I see.”
This man responded with “Well I am a baseball guy and you’re wrong.” At this point it was two batters later, game two of a double header and the hot South Florida weather was getting to me. So I turned to him and said “Sir, I am a baseball girl. It was an error,” and dismissed him. I know now this wasn’t the most professional response but sometimes it’s warranted.
My career path has been unique. In my five years as a professional in college athletics, I have always worked under a female athletic director, give or take a few months of transition periods. I have been fortunate to have great female leaders to look up to, some whom have been in this business for decades.
I think that respecting females comes from the top, from your athletic directors and administrators, to your coaches and support staff and then finally trickles down to student-athletes.
Recently, we have heard of multiple teams being investigated for sexually explicit, racist and even lewd text messages about females being sent between teammates.
How many athletic departments proactively educate their student-athletes on right from wrong?
A men’s lacrosse coach that I formerly worked with is a big advocate for student-athletes educating others about abuse and sexual misconduct. This fall, his team spearheaded Escalation Workshops in conjunction with the university’s Title IX office. The workshops focused on materials from the One Love Foundation that trained students to recognize triggers and signs of sexual misconduct by providing them with the skills to be better leaders.
In my opinion, not enough people are proactive about education on the topic. Not until it is too late at least. We need to make a better effort to speak openly about the nation-wide issue of inappropriate language and actions passed upon females whether it be professionals or athletes.
Hopefully together we can all help steer our coaches and administrators in the direction of education before an issue arises and we must then teach from consequence. This is the 21st Century after all.