I receive quizzical looks when I tell those who ask that I am the editor of the sports section for the East Tennessean.
It’s no secret that I am a 5-foot, brunette woman, but why are those two small facts enough to make somebody surprised that I work in sports?
I grew up an athlete. When I was 2, my mom put me into gymnastics, and I would stick with that sport until I was about 13. As I grew up, it was no longer enough to play a sport for myself. I needed to be part of a team.
From middle school to junior year of high school I was the girl that did it all: basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, soccer. If there was the chance to be on a new team, I was there.
When I was a junior, I realized I needed to choose one, and I dedicated my last two years of high school to year-round soccer. Sports are a commitment, and through them I was taught confidence and leadership.
It was never strange to my peers that I was an athlete. Women competed at the highest level of all the sports I was involved in, but it was when I was no longer playing the sport, and working on the outside, that I was considered “unconventional.”
How could I know anything about men’s soccer, men’s tennis or football? The field of sports journalism is still so predominantly run by males.
In 2013, the American Society of News Editors conducted research on gender representation in the newsrooms and found that 63.7 percent of workers were men, with only 36.3 percent being women, and that was an increase.
I found this research in the article Working in Sports Journalism as a Woman, and in that there was another statement that struck me: No women had hosted Olympics sports coverage until 2014 when Meredith Vieira broke that barrier.
There is gender inequality in almost every single field, but it was something I never experienced until I took over as sports editor. I have never experienced disrespect, but the shock I saw and heard of when I was the one assigning stories and giving the orders really resonated with me.
Just because I am woman doesn’t mean I am any less qualified to discuss and report on sports. There are not only male sports anymore, and in many cases, women are excelling at universities on their sports teams even more than men.
As a woman in sports, I’ve had the privilege of being able to assign and give a voice to more female sports than in the past. It doesn’t have to be all about football, because softball and volleyball are just as impactful to the community.
For the women looking to be involved in sports, there is absolutely no reason (athlete or not) that you shouldn’t strive to shock a few people too.