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Women's World: Missing In Coverage

Posted Nov 14, 2013

Welcome to Women's World. Brandyn Campbell is the founder, editor and writer of the Philly Sports Muse. Every Thursday, Campbell will offer a unique perspective as she shares her passion for the Eagles ...

Recently, I wrote about the experience of being in the Eagles press box at Lincoln Financial Field. Comprised of an array of online, print and broadcast journalists, a range of local and national media outlets who cover Eagles football have a front-and-center view of what unfolds each week on the field.

While looking around the press box and at its credentialed members that day, one thing stood out: There was a clear lack of diversity in those present. In particular, there were very few women in the room to cover the game.

It's incredibly curious to me that there are so few women in sports media when, by comparison, there are so many female fans. If we talk about the National Football League alone, almost half of its fanbase - about 45 percent - are women. One would think, then, that a greater proportion of women would make their way into sports media. But if that were the case, I wouldn't be writing this column. So where my girls at?

The lack of women present in the press box is not something unique to the Eagles press corps. The fact that the male-dominated sports industry is covered by a male-dominated sports media industry is nothing new. Perhaps the fact that we see some women in broadcasting covering sports in some capacity - although the representation there is still very small - skews the overall perception of just how few women there are in the sports media, particularly writers.

Though their numbers are very few, you see far more women on television talking about sports than you see with bylines on the sports pages of newspapers or sports websites. Females are sideline reporters or co-anchors of shows such as NFL AM or SportsCenter. But more often than not, those who make it this far, particularly on a national level, look like models, while their male counterparts most definitely do not.

That said, we know that looks are a part of the overall package for anyone interested in going into television journalism. When it comes to the written word, though, looks shouldn't be an issue. The focus is on talent and content. So again, the question is, where are the women?

Just think about the outlets you visit to find out Eagles news. When thinking about the beat writers at Philadelphia's major publications - The Inquirer, Daily News and Philadelphia Magazine, to name a few - none are women.

I should note, though, that one of the best female football writers in the country used to work for the Inky, ESPN's Ashley Fox. She wrote one of the best pieces I've read to date on the challenges of being a woman working in the world of sports. "Know your stuff. Work hard. Read exhaustively. Ask good questions. Don't make mistakes. You have to be twice as good as the men just to be in the game.

Do all of that, and you'll still probably have a problem. It's the nature of the beast."

It's a reality that applies to women in all sectors. In a time when women have combat roles in the armed services, apprehension about entering a male-dominated field cannot be why women are present in such small numbers in sports. In 2013, there's no time to be timid.

Even when stepping away from major media outlets to look at the matter, the lack of female representation is the same. Looking at the landscape of sports blogs, you'd expect a truer reflection of women bloggers as compared to the percentage of fans, right? Anyone with the will and a computer can start up a blog. Surprisingly, the answer there is no as well.

Just think of the Eagles blogs you know of and frequent, or do a search of them and it's hard to find many run by women. In fact, if you even look at the name of contributors to said blogs, they, too reveal an absence of women. Case in point: Of the many Eagles bloggers I know or know of, I have only come across two women besides myself who have run blogs about the team at one point or another.

Could it be that, like in fields like engineering that involve a heavy amount of math and science, women are all too often self-selecting themselves out of the pool, leaving a predominantly male field precisely as that? Based on the lack of representation even in the blogosphere, it seems to me that this must be at least part of the issue. Women taking themselves out of the running before even having a chance to pursue a career in sports writing. 

I recently participated in the 2013 Temple Sports Journalism Summit & APSE Mid-Atlantic Workshop, a gathering for current university students to think about, explore and make connections with those in the sports industry. At this incredible (and free) networking event, there were sadly not many young women present. Are young women taking themselves out of the running at the knowledge of the trials that other female journalists faced when gaining entry into locker rooms?

Research papers can and likely have been written on the issue of where the female women writers are in sports media.I don't pretend to have the answers.But hopefully, if sports writing is of interest to young women, whether for fun or as a possible profession, they aren't looking at the lack of other women sports writers as a reason they shouldn't pursue it. It should serve to provide even more determination that, in fact, they should.

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