By Grace Raynor
ORLANDO, Fla. — Every day, either by law or societal expectations, 32 million girls around the world don’t go to school.
That’s what Dr. Richard Lapchick, the founder of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, said May 23 at the first of many panels of the 2014 AWSM convention.
And every day, he said, people such Christine Brennan, Cathy Crowther, Anucha Browne and Jorge Rojas are fighting to reverse the stigma that surrounds professional women, particularly those in sports media.
Lapchick moderated a question-and-answer session regarding the importance of diversity in sports media, which included Brennan, Crowther, Browne and Rojas.
Browne, vice president of women’s basketball championships for the NCAA and a former student-athlete, said the NCAA has clear concerns about student models and that now is the time to be open about that.
“(There are) 460,000 student athletes,” Browne said. “Most of them are doing it right, but we have a small subject that is not doing well. I’m concerned, I think it’s a healthy dialogue, a healthy change to go through. But I don’t want to see wholesale challenges to the model.”
Brennan, a sports columnist at USA Today, stressed the importance of covering women’s sports in addition to men’s sports.
“If your sports editor is saying, ‘Well, we’ll cover the men’s and then go home.’ … I think it’s perfectly fine to go into the office and say, ‘Well why aren’t we covering the women?” Brennan said. “My feelings is that you can’t shy away from that … not to promote women, but to promote the coverage of women – very different.”
Rojas, the sports editor of the Miami Herald and the diversity chair for the Associated Press Sports Editors, said that principle of opportunity for women extends to both athletes and media members. APSE received a D+ overall in a racial and gender report card for 2013.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “It’s not for a lack of trying. There are a lot of reasons why we’re failing.”
But he hopes reform is on the way, and it seems to be.
Crowther, the director of remote operations/production planning for the Golf Channel, said of 700 candidates vying for 15 spots, she hired mostly women. One man works for her.
Browne said she, too, sees a difference.
“I realized early being the only (woman of color), I would go into many meetings and feel like my opinion wasn’t important,” she said. “I would tell my dad, and he said, ‘You know what, Anucha? We used to not be here at all. Be proud of it, and wear it proudly.’ ”
Browne urged women in the audience to be pushy, to stand up for what they believe in, and to continue to fight for the perfect reality one day.
“Utopia for me would not be continued to be defined as a woman of color or a woman in the industry,” she said.
“A day where we are simply equals would be utopia for all of us.”