It is always heartening to see when individuals or groups overcome obstacles in their path to success. Sports have shown us many examples of this. Sports media is no different.
Back in May the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) held its 20th Anniversary convention in Dallas. The organization has had much to celebrate. Yet it still has much to overcome.
AWSM (pronounced “awesome”) was formed by a group of California-based female sportswriters as a support network to cultivate the growth of women in all aspects of sports media.
There is no doubt that in 1987 the formation of AWSM could not have come at a better time. Despite a 1978 federal court ruling granting female reporters equal access to coaches and players as their male counterparts, women in sports media was still an anomaly in the mid 1980′s.
AWSM President Vicki Michaelis is the lead Olympic writer at USA Today. She has covered sports since the early 1990′s. She says that even though women sports journalists have gained acceptance in relation to their growth in the ranks, there are still those who are being discriminated against.
“While attitudes and perceptions might have shifted overall, some individuals still cling to antiquated ideas about what we know and where we belong.”
The numbers bear out that there are more barriers to overcome for women in the sports media. A study by the Associated Press Sports Editors showed that women make up only a small portion of administrative positions on the sports desk. Even though there are more female sports reporters than ever before, just below 7 percent of them serve as columnists.
“Sports media need diversity in voice and leadership to stay relevant.” says Michaelis.
AWSM has over 475 members, with 5 to 10 percent of them being men. Since 1990 AWSM has placed more than 90 female college students as paid interns at some of the most respected and well known sports media entities across the country. The organization also provides networking and career enhancement opportunities to its members.
“The program has become the focus of AWSM’s guiding principal, which is to promote and increase diversity in sports media.” Michaelis says.
AWSM has recently received non-profit status, allowing it to increase its fundraising possibilities to ensure that its scholarship program will remain viable for years to come. It will also look to foster relationships with other journalism organizations to widen the networking opportunities for its members. Michaelis says AWSM will also soon unveil a new website, increasing accessibility and improving its online resources.
Organizations like AWSM provide a welcomed support system for its members. And AWSM has served its members well for the last 20 years. But until women are accepted as professionals in all press boxes and locker rooms, AWSM has its work cut out for it. But I wouldn’t bet against it succeeding.
(Logo courtesy of AWSM)