Let’s start out with the basics: I’ve worked in almost every level of sports. I have worked for three professional teams, a major junior hockey team in Canada, my college’s Division III athletic department, and international events like the U.S. Open with the USGA. I’ve worked in the Big Ten and currently work in the Mountain West. I’ve done stats for various national broadcasters and I’ve worked at a number of tournaments. The common thread? I’ve been biased against for being a female in every single position.
This project was an attempt for me to reach out to women I respect in the field and know that I am not alone in my experience, or in how I feel day after day.
For the next three weeks i'll share a different interview I did with women who are at various stages in their careers. As a group, they are CoSIDA Rising Star award winners, mentors to countless young people like myself, recognized around the country for what they do, and are active in various communities within sports information. But they all have a few things in common: they are passionate, they support other women in the profession, and they understand what I, and so many of my female counterparts, have been through because they, too, have been through it.
Chevonne Mansfield is a bit of a legend among women in athletic communications. Before serving in her current role with the American Athletic Conference, she was an assistant director of media relations with the SEC and an assistant sports information director at Howard. A CoSIDA board member from 2013-16 and a Rising Star award winner in 2011, Chevonne also interned with ESPN, the NIT, the New York Jets and New York Liberty. If you follow her on social media, you’ll see that she hasn’t slowed down one bit.
It seems as though every woman in the profession can pinpoint a few times that they were discriminated against for their gender, whether it was blatant or inadvertent. Can you talk about a time that you personally were biased against for being a woman?
I remember this moment like it was yesterday, even though it was six or seven years ago. A client at one of my previous employers downplayed my position. We just met face-to-face at an event after exchanging pleasantries over the phone prior to our meeting. He asked what my title was – I was the Assistant Director of Communications – smirked and said, “Assistant Director, I get it.” “Assistant”, he implied, was the same as “receptionist” in his eyes. He was implying that I was a receptionist with a lofty title.
How did you react when it happened?
I could not believe it. I didn’t say anything to him about it, and I regret at least not correcting him. I was also very young back then, in my 20s, and combined with him being a client of ours and a Caucasian male, that may have intimidated me a bit. I did not want to “ruin” things with a client, and I also did not want to play into some of the stereotypes of African American women and how they are typecast. If that happened now, I could certainly correct things on the record, client or not. Chalk it up to me being older and wiser now.
What would you tell a woman who is experiencing inadvertent sexism, or feels like she's not getting the same opportunities as her male counterparts?
I would tell her to do a great job in her current role and knock things out of the park. Worry about what you can control and try not to get stressed about things out of your hands. Women will always have a magnifying glass on them, especially when working in sports business. You almost have to be perfect, because any mistakes you make may be blown up or exaggerated.
I truly believe that sometimes, if a man makes a mistake, he will be given another chance but women may not always have that second opportunity. We are all human and we all make mistakes. It is unfortunate that women are sometimes held to different standards. That is why it is important to do great work and always give 110%.
What should women do to attempt to counteract these misconceptions?
You just have to be savvy with how you brand yourself and work hard to be visible in the area(s) you wish to work in while still doing a great job in your current role. That includes being a frequent user of social media and taking advantage of professional/personal development opportunities.