The Washington Post sets a new standard for gender parity in sports media

Image courtesy of Russian Machine Never Breaks

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love a good female success story.

Another thing about me — I’m really not that into sports (except for this week).

Earlier in April, The Washington Post became the first major newspaper to have women covering four major professional sports beats, and I am HERE FOR IT.

These four ladies range in age and race, and they basically show the world that any woman is capable of writing excellent sports stories.

This is all great, and don’t get me wrong; I’m so stoked that this is happening — but it shouldn’t have to be a big deal that women are covering major sports beats. In an ideal world, it would just be a normal occurrence in the first place.

However, that’s not how our society works these days. Allow me to explain.

The Women’s Media Center is a nonprofit organization that works for equal and fair representation of women within the media industry. Each year since 2012, they have published “The Status of Women in the U.S. Media,” which quite literally reports a ton of statistics to document women’s status (or lack thereof) within the media industry.

In its 2017 report, the Women’s Media Center reported the following information regarding female sports journalists. The information comes from analyses of 1,726 editorial positions at 100 U.S. and Canadian newspapers in “The Associated Press Sports Editors Racial and Gender Report Card:”

(Keep in mind that while the report was released in 2017, much of the report’s data ends with 2014.)

  • Newspapers and website sports desks received an “F” grade in gender diversity and a “C+” in race diversity.
  • The number of female assistant sports editors dropped from 17.2 percent to 9.8 percent — that’s roughly half — between 2012 and 2014.
  • 90.1 percent of sports editors were men in 2014, and 90.2 percent of assistant sports editors were men in 2014.
  • White men accounted for 75 percent of all positions analyzed in the report.
  • White women accounted for 10.3 percent of the positions, but African-American, Latina and Asian women accounted for 1.8 percent, 0.5 percent and zero percent of the positions, respectively.
  • Women and people of color make up 24.9 percent of the positions analyzed.

So, yeah. It’s pretty obvious that women, especially women of color, deserve better representation in sports media, and it’s frustrating that the norm has consistently been the opposite.

What The Washington Post is doing is amazing, but it’s a small step in the direction of a large change that needs to happen. However, that’s where you come in.

The only way for this norm to shift is to build a community of people working toward the same goal. Luckily, there are a few great communities already out there for you to check out.

My favorite? The Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM), a nonprofit, international organization, with both male and female membership, that supports the advancement of both student and professional women in sports media.

Full time students can join AWSM for a $25 annual fee. Also, they’re hosting their annual convention May 7-10 in Austin, Texas, which sounds really nice.

So, what do you think? How can women further carve out a path for themselves in sports journalism?


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