My friend, Lauralys Shallow, has always spoken to me about how she aspires to be a sports broadcaster. I am so proud of her and know that she will accomplish her dream, but I am not oblivious to the fact that she will be discriminated against because she is a girl. So, I decided to ask her a few questions…
How have others treated you as a female referee?
“In the fall of my freshman year of college, I officiated intramural soccer and flag football. Officiating, gender aside, is tough because every time you make a call one team agrees with you and the other team disagrees with you. However, every single game I officiated, I was the only female on the field. Boys play football, so that means girls know nothing at all about football. False. My knowledge of the sport was questioned because of my sex. My ability to officiate was undermined because of my sex. Unlike my male coworkers, the focus was not just on the calls I made, but also my physical appearance. Participants have asked for my number, hit on me, etc. Those participants probably did not mean any harm, but I was there to officiate. I was not there to flirt. I was not there to be eye candy. As the games went on, it was evident I was a good official, and I was just as good as the other males on my officiating crew. Because I was a female, I was not automatically taken seriously, I had to prove that I was knowledgable of the rules, and confident enough to make calls. “
How have others treated you as a female broadcaster?
“At Indiana University, I got involved in two student media outlets: Big Ten Student U and WIUX Pure Student Radio. I have broadcast swimming and diving, softball, soccer, and basketball, and I was the only female on the broadcasting crew. (A crew typically consists of a play by play commentator, color commentator, and a sideline reporter) I have always been treated with respect and taken seriously because of how hard I prepare for the broadcasts. I meet with the Sports Information Director of the sport I am broadcasting and coordinate interviews with players and coaches, I attend practice, I contact the opposing team, make spotting boards, and so much more that goes into executing a broadcast. Because I take the broadcast seriously, I am taken seriously, Truthfully, on all my broadcasts at IU, I have been treated just like everyone else on the broadcasting team. “
Do you feel like you are discriminated against in the field of sports media because you are a girl?
“There are a number of challenges faced by females in sports media. Women are ridiculed, mocked, and insulted for pursuing a career in sports media. The saddest part is women often face derisive comments from the fans of sports. Go look at any successful female sports reporter’s social media—Sam Ponder, Erin Andrews, Samantha Dewig, Heather Dinich—they are threatened, called horrible names, and criticized for their looks. The fans are not even discussing what those women are reporting. Far too often, women in sports are subject to criticism that has absolutely nothing to do with the sports they are reporting. This reinforces the notion that females in sports media are valued for how they look as opposed what they are reporting.”
How has this held you back?
“The discrimination has not held me back because that comes with the career path I have chosen. I knew what I was signing up for! Sadly, the discrimination of women in sports media has been around forever. If anything, the discrimination makes me work harder and prove that I deserve to be treated with respect and as equally as the men in the sports media field. “
How do you push through this and stay encouraged?
“Sports broadcasting is my passion. Nothing will stop me from pursuing my dreams of having a career in sports broadcasting. I have been blessed with parents who support me and love me, friends that inspire me every single day, and I attend a university that has professors who make me a better broadcaster and want me to achieve my goals.”
What do you have to say to other girls who are interested in sports related careers?
“I am proud of you. You are brave enough to be interested in an area that is male dominated. You are going to face unwarranted criticisms simply because you are a female. You are going to be judged harshly on your looks; however, you are still capable of being successful in this field. If you are interested in sports, weather it be broadcasting, behind the scenes, PR, marketing, etc, learn as much as you can! Get involved in organizations! Attend workshops! Most importantly, always remember being a female is empowering and you have every right to pursue whatever you are passionate about. Society can be discouraging at times, but if you are doing what you love and it makes you happy and proud, then you are gonna be successful by your standards. Your standards are the most important.”
Be brave, grrls. Pursue your dream no matter what gender stereotypes say!
Thank you, Lauralys, my strong, beautiful, and driven sports grrl friend!