Feature: Women in Sports Journalism

The world of sports, it seems, remains as impenetrable for women off the field as it is on the field, and nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of sports journalism. Speaking to three female sports journalists, What Glass Ceiling considers why the industry remains so male-dominated, and why women’s sport rarely gets a look in on coverage.

It remains one of the most male-dominated areas in British media and one of the hardest for aspiring young talents to crack. With less than 3% of sports reporters actually being female, sports journalism continues to lag behind other areas of the industry in encouraging women to consider it as a viable career option. Whilst some media forms are doing better than others in featuring female faces (and voices) in its coverage, others continue to be almost entirely staffed by men.

Whilst television and radio sports coverage now features a smattering of big female names as part of their coverage, the British press remains woefully behind its media peers in the number of female sports journalists it employs.

Shockingly, not a single one of Britain’s national weekly or Sunday papers boasts a female sports editor. It is widely acknowledged that this lack of female editorial staff was a significant factor in the utterly female-free shortlist for the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Prominent female sports writers remain firmly in the minority in broadsheets and tabloids alike. The Telegraph’s Jacquelin Magnay, for example, whilst widely respected for her work as the paper’s Olympic Sports Editor is one of the only woman to hold such a position.

The only female sports editors to be found at this stage are those in charge of publications dedicated to women’s sport, such as Jen O’Neill, editor of She Kicks.

She agrees that there is still a disappointing lack of female sports journalists in mainstream print media. ‘It’s been a very blokey atmosphere for a long time and many of the established order probably want to keep it that way,’ she says.

Nevertheless, there is room for optimism. ‘It’s changing as younger sports editors come on board,’ she adds. ‘Social media changes access to information and the way people think and more women work their way into visible and occasionally influential positions’.

Sports journalism might never even occur to women as a potential career option, as Sarah Shephard, a senior writer at Sport Magazine, suggests.

I did read a statistic about the number of women on sports journalism courses and it’s pitiful,’ she admits. ‘The fact that very few women choose to do that degree suggest that maybe they’re put off because they think they’ll never get into it’.
As much as I love sport, growing up it never occurred to me I could get into this as a job possibly because I didn’t see many female names in the newspapers on the back pages. Maybe it’s just the fact that they don’t think about it as a career opportunity’.