Where are all the women in sports journalism?

Anita Martini, the first female sports reporter allowed in a major league locker room. (Photo from the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, of which she is a member).

Anita Martini, the first female sports reporter allowed in a major league locker room. (Photo from the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, of which she is a member).

Last year after rookie sports broadcaster Jessica “Redfield” Ghawi died in the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting, her family and friends set up a memorial scholarship program in her honor.

This is awesome on many levels.

For starters, this is a great way to honor someone.

But this is also a scholarship – geared specifically for women who want to study sports journalism – that is sorely needed.

There are a lot of female journalists, but very few women covering sports. Like, practically none, which is nonsense. It’s 2013, and yet sports continues to be a very white, very male part of newsrooms.

How awful are the numbers?

The latest report card from the Associated Press Sports Editors (representing 150 newspapers and websites) shows that women make up 9.6 percent of sports editors, 17.2 percent of assistant sports editors, 19.6 percent of copy editors and designers, and 9.7 percent of columnists.

If you can believe it, these craptastic numbers actually represent an improvement from a few years ago. (The numbers for minorities are as dismal, though also improving by increments).

A 2005 paper by Marie Hardin and Stacie Shain published in the Newspaper Research Journal notes that “the sight of a woman in a sports department is still a relative rarity,” and “Many sports departments still have no women.”

The Hardin and Shain piece dives into the myriad roadblocks for women sports journalists, who are often viewed as outsiders by sources and colleagues.

They cite a survey:

“More than half of respondents reported that they had experienced on-the-job discrimination, and 72 percent indicated that they had considered leaving their careers… interviews with 26 women in sports broadcasting, published in 2005, indicated that there were few substantive differences between the experiences of women in print and those in broadcast; for instance, the female broadcasters interviewed expressed concern about their non-advancement into managerial ranks and “unfair treatment” that gave advantage to their male colleagues.”

So, clearly there’s a ways to go here, and sports is still not an open doorway for women.

I grew up admiring Houston broadcaster Anita Martini, the first female sports journalist allowed in a major league locker room – a huge barrier to break. People were losing their minds over the idea of Martini doing post-game interviews in the locker room – gasp! – with everyone else. She died in 1993 at a fairly young age, but was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. (Side note: Martini doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. And I am pounding my head on the desk now).

Ghawi was a young reporter who had moved far from home to chase her sports broadcasting dream – something I think that anyone who has worked in radio, TV, magazines or newspapers can appreciate. What she was doing is not easy. (And you can read a great remembrance of her in this USA Today story).

The scholarship for women studying sports journalism is managed through the San Antonio Area Foundation.

– Jen

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