There might, of course, be a higher demand for female sports journalists if women’s sport were higher up the news agenda, with editors choosing to assign female reporters to cover women’s teams.
As it stands, female teams at both club and international level remain chronically underrepresented in British media. A report by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found that a meagre 5% of sports media coverage focused on female teams or athletes.
Women’s football has certainly benefited from increased coverage in recent years, with England’s quarter final against France shown on BBC Two in 2011.
Nevertheless, reporting on the semi-professional women’s leagues remains limited to the occasional photo in the newspapers.
‘Sometimes I think the women’s game gets a bit extra of a leg up because of the success and popularity of football in general’, admits O’Neill. ‘Then again, women’s football is the third biggest participation sport in England and yet men’s Rugby Union and men’s Rugby League get more media coverage’.
The same problems arise in the coverage given to women’s rugby teams. Despite winning the Six Nations for seven years in a row and reaching three consecutive world cup finals, the England women’s team struggles to secure media exposure.
‘Whilst the male rugby union team hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and blown out of all proportion, the female rugby team barely gets a mention despite all their successes,’ points out Osborne.
Perilously low interest from corporate advertisers is one of the main issues behind the limited public profile of many women’s sports. No money means no publicity, fewer supporters and thus far less interest from broadcasters and publications alike.
Attempts by Sport Magazine to produce a flip edition, with half of the issue covering solely female athletes, failed after a matter of weeks because of a lack of corporate interest.
‘We really struggled and that’s how we make our money. So if I cant prove to the editor that it’s commercially viable, we’re not going to do it, which is a real shame,’ explains Shepherd.
There are a host of archaic and damaging assumptions that need shattering before female sports writers secure the respect and presence they deserve.
Female sports journalists needn’t be restricted to perceived ‘girlier’ sports, they are just as capable of reporting as their male counterparts and are no less informed or passionate about their industry.
The sooner these messages are absorbed by those at the top end of sports journalism, the easier it will be for the next generation of female sports journalists to make their mark. The rest, of course, is down to them.