By KRISTEN GOWDY
The opening session of the 2015 Association for Women in Sport Media conference featured three speakers and moderator Joanne Gerstner of Michigan State University, who discussing the stereotypes that they have faced as females in the heavily male-dominated sports industry and how they have dealt with them. Moderated by Joanne Gerstner, sports journalist in residence in the School of Journalism at Michigan State University, panelists Nancy Armour of USA TODAY Sports, Patricia Mays of ESPN.com and Laura Neal of the PGA Tour opened by discussing their work in their respective fields.
“The first six months in this job, I was tested,” said Mays, who is the executive editor of ESPN.com.
She then explained that her subordinates would bypass her and go straight to her male boss. However, she said, her boss was a champion for women in the field, and sent them directly back to her.
“Now I have the opposite problem,” Mays said. “Now everyone comes to me for everything,” she joked.
The group also discussed the origins of stereotyping. Neal, who works closely with the mostly male media members on the PGA Tour, said that while gender-based stereotyping is “aging out a bit,” it is still prevalent in the industry today because younger people look at the world differently. Neal advised the audience, which included many college-age aspiring sports journalists and established professionals in the industry, to remain assertive and to stick up for themselves.
“For me, I can only adjust my attitude and how I react to situations,” said Neal, the vice president of communications of the PGA Tour. “I can’t be defensive.”
Building off of this topic, Armour brought up the idea of evolution in dealing with gender-based stereotyping. She said it is often assumed that she knows about female sports since she is a female sportswriter.
“But I got into this job to be a sportswriter, not a female sportswriter,” said Armour, a columnist at USA Today.
Finally, the group examined the positive changes emerging from the sports world in regards to gender stereotyping as of late.
“I can’t tell you the last time I walked into a press conference or locker room and was the only woman,” Armour said. “It’s fantastic.”
Before opening the room to questions from the audience, Mays summed up the session in a single sentence:
“Don’t be afraid to be a champion for yourself.”