Journalism’s Glass Ceiling: Women sports journalists objectified

Jolene Nacapuy
Sports Editor

Women sports journalists say they struggle to make a name in the sports journalism world without being sexualized and they continually fight the criticism on social media sites.

They need to watch what they say, how they say it, and even how they dress.

However, even this is not enough to please their audience, and avoid being diminished and objectified.

Women are still the vast minority in sports journalism, and even those women who have beaten the odds and gotten hired in sports reporting jobs, face discrimination and objectification.

Men’s Fitness magazine and Bleacher Report shared a few articles including slideshows like the “50 hottest female sports broadcasters,” “20 sexiest sports reporters” and one had the byline of Jenna Haines, a woman.

One article states, “No athlete would mind being interviewed by one of these sideline hotties.”

“Sports media has been a fraternity for a long time,” said Shireen Ahmed, freelance journalist who focuses on sports, women and minorites. “I think a lot of people might be uncomfortable with the fact that it might change. Taking away people’s power and privilege makes them upset. We fight harder for less. Everyone know this, but who would want to fix an industry when it’s benefiting them?”

Being in sports journalism as a woman is a hard job to tackle, especially with all the criticism coming their way.

One of the most famous sports reporters out there, Erin Andrews, has been labeled as the “sideline Barbie” or “sideline princess.”

Many critics focus on how she looks rather than what she is reporting.

A 2014 Pew Research study showed women are more likely to be exposed to sexual harassment online and stalking, 25 percent in comparison to 13 percent for men.

Women are told to deal with the insults on social media by ignoring them and not to give in to the comments and to just let them be.

It is harder to ignore it than it may seem, as it happens over and over again and are just told it will go away eventually.

“Some comments I’ve seen on social media have been really violent,” Ahmed said. “I wrote a small piece on a blog about Patrick Kane and someone replied saying that I should be raped with a hockey stick. It was jarring and I ate ice cream and watched kitten videos.”

Social media, especially Twitter, can be a powerful source of harassment.

“It needs to stop. Social media has done a lot to proliferate the hate toward women in media,” sports documentary producer Rhett Grametbauer said.

“At the same time, social media has given women a voice and provided a medium in which they can prove their competency as a journalist and sports fan on a continual basis.”

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. The venomous tone some sports fans have toward women needs to stop, but I think the people that write these things and have these negative opinions have other issues going on in life,” he said.

In a 2013 report by the Women’s Media Center, men represented 63.4 percent of bylines, on-camera appearances and producers, while women were 36.1 percent.

“People clearly aren’t aware of the amazing contributions women have already made to sports,” said Megan Brown, social media manager for professional athletes.

“While ignorant statements make me angry, I’ve been directing my energy toward changing these feelings by bringing awareness to both the situation as well as the wonderful women who have overcome it,” Brown said.

In today’s society, people are free to express their opinions through social media.

The result of this is that women in the public eye, including sports broadcasters have experienced online abuse.

“I don’t think people understand what women inherently face in the world of sports journalism for the simple fact they are women,” Grametbauer said.

“I think women are as competent as men and bring a fresh perspective to a sometimes stale industry. The advent of the female sideline reporter in my opinion has done more to set females back in the industry as anything else,” he said.

Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at

Special Report: Journalism's Glass Ceiling
Women still rare in sports reporting
Women sports journalists objectified
Commentary: Women can throw curve balls in sports journalism

Other Stories


  1. As a former writer for Men’s Fitness Magazine (a contract position I held during college), the blog posts I was paid to write in a certain tone (i.e. in the voice of their target audience) don’t reflect my personal views about women in sports. As a fellow journalist and a woman with a lifetime of participation in sports, it would have been nice for the professional chance to have been asked to explain my views before having my name published online. Particularly interesting, as I was a sports reporter–at the time–myself. While it takes a few broken eggs to make an omelette, so to say, I’m not sure why it’s necessary to step over people engaging in the same fight when we have so many enemies already.

    That said, I am also amazed by the “amazing contributions women have already made to sports,” and am glad you are bringing attention to it. I encourage you to check out my other work, which is largely focused on women’s health.

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