The Gender and Race Imbalance in Sports Media

Jordan StephensonStaff Writer

The sports media landscape has an enormous problem, which is the lack of women and people of color that are employed. It remains predominantly white and male. Also, it needs to change for there not to be a consistent imbalance.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) released a report card explaining race and gender in sports media. Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), Racial and Gender Report Card was a B-plus, which was an improvement from the B in 2018, but sadly the gender grade remained an F.

The overall grade was a C, which was an improvement from the D-plus in 2018. The report that was released explains the racial and gender hiring process of 100-plus newspapers and websites. These many outlets determine the different stories to cover, when to cover them and how they are viewed. Minimal progress was achieved over the three-plus years since the study was released.

There are a lot of key numbers and percentages from the 2021 report that I’ll discuss, that’ll show the egregious discrepancy in sports media. About seventy-nine percent of sports editors were white, and 83.3 percent were men. Seventy-two percent of assistant sports editors were white and 75.8 percent were men. Of the columnists, 77.1 percent were white and 82.2 percent were men. About seventy-seven percent of reporters were white and 85.6 percent were men. Seventy-seven percent of copy editors/ designers were white and 75.3 percent were men. Of the web specialists, 72.4 percent were white and 78.1 percent were men.

Lisa Wilson who was a former ASPE president and a key advisor said, “We need more women in the industry.” Only one gender category improved, which was the assistant sports editor, but overall the grades were putrid. There were some gender improvements and highlights to be encouraged about.

From 2018 to 2021 women sports editors went from 10 percent to 16.7 percent. Women columnists increased from 16.6 percent to 17.8 percent. Women reporters rose from 11.5 percent to 14.4 percent. Women copy editors/designers went from 20.4 percent to 24.7 percent.

Wilson said, “We can be encouraged by the increases, but can’t be satisfied with our overall grade.” She also said, “It has been a problem for a long time, it will take time to correct, and it’s still a major problem with women and especially women of color.”

Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) staffers made a significant impact in many categories. Most of the racial and gender categories would plummet without ESPN. ESPN had 25 percent of all women who were sports editors. ESPN had 38.1 percent of all women who were columnists. If ESPN wasn’t included in the data, sports editors would drop from 16.7 percent to 13.5 percent; and columnists would go from 17.8 percent to 13.8 percent.

And 61.1 percent of assistant sports editors of color worked for ESPN, but 37.1 percent of all columnists of color were employed by ESPN.

To reiterate, even though there has been improvements of women being in sports media, there is still ways to go to regain balance for women in sports media. The disparity in percentages between men and women that I read from this report, was very disappointing and disheartening to comprehend how the major imbalances started.

Image Courtesy of Northwestern University

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