Tag Archives: WNBA

Shameful & Inaccurate Media Coverage of MN Lynx

I feel compelled to write yet ANOTHER blog about how the sport media shamefully covers women’s sports in general and the Minnesota Lynx specifically. Currently, the Lynx are the reigning WNBA Champions and until yesterday (June 24, 2016) were undefeated, notching a record-breaking 13-0 start, the best start in the history of the 20 year old WBNA league.

Shot from Lynx 2016 home opener. Full arena!
Shot from Lynx 2016 home opener. Full arena!

For the last 10 years, and more specifically the last 5 years, I and many others–including Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, have educated, implored, asked, cajoled and tried to shame the sport media into respectfully and fairly covering the Lynx.

Why cover the Lynx? I’ll give you 5 reasons.

 

1. Because they are amazing athletes that deserve the coverage of their males counterparts.

2. The Media constantly states they cover teams that win. People like to read about winners!…yet despite being the MOST winning team in Minnesota (maybe except for the Gopher Women’s Hockey Team who get nearly NO coverage as 2016 and 7 time NCAA D-I National Champions) the Lynx get less coverage than the Twins, who currently are having a miserable season and started their season 0-9 or the MN Vikings and MN Wild who are currently NOT in season. The Lynx are the most winning pro team in Minnesota. They have been in the WNBA finals 4 of the last 5 years, and have won it 3 times (2013, ’15, ’16).

Despite this amazing and dominant franchise, The Media continue to ignore and marginalize the Lynx accomplishments (see the New York Times piece “Cleveland Finally Won a Title. What’s the Most Cursed Sports City Now?”) which ranks Minneapolis as the 5th most cursed city without a pro championship, which erases and dismisses the accomplishments of the Lynx (see screen shot below).

NYT dismisses Lynx Championships
NYT dismisses Lynx Championships

3. The Media states they cover teams people are interested in, but take no responsibility in CREATING that interest. People ARE interested in the Lynx, despite the fact The Media doesn’t give them fair or equal coverage. If you have attended a Lynx game, you can’t deny the energy or interest in the Lynx that is palpable in the Target Center where the Lynx play their home games.

If you haven’t been or tuned into a game on ESPN, you are missing out. If you are The Media trying to write a positive story about the Lynx, don’t title it “Despite winning streak, Lynx fan base remains small.”

Shame on MPR, you should know better! If I don’t know or follow the Lynx, this title does not make me want to tune in or attend. It does not increase my interest in the team. And the truth is, the arena is full! (see picture below from the June 24, 2016 Lynx v. Sparks game).

Small fan base? Limited interest? What team are you reporting on MPR?
Small fan base? Limited interest? What team are you reporting on MPR?

4. The Lynx are positive role models for girls, but also for boys…as good people AND as great athletes. They are good people, care about each other, play unselfishly, are engaged in the community, always give full effort, are gritty & tough competitors, have good sportsmanship, and are the epitome of what champions look and act like.

5. The amount of coverage the Lynx get is disproportionate to their talent and reflects a false reality of participation trends in the US. Female athletes make up 43% of all sport participants, but get < 4% of all sport media coverage (if you want more info, watch “Media Coverage & Female Athletes”  an Emmy-winning documentary on this topic).

If you agree, share, tweet, and/or post this. Your voice matters. Join the #HERESPROOF campaign to prove the the media that people ARE interested in women’s sport.

Shot from Lynx 2013 playoff game. Full arena!
Shot from Lynx 2013 playoff game. Full arena!

 

Why a Woman Coach in the NBA Matters

Becky Hammon, Assistant Coach San Antonio Spurs
Becky Hammon, Assistant Coach San Antonio Spurs

This summer an NBA team was in the news… for hiring a woman to the coaching staff.

During the first week of August 2014, the San Antonio Spurs made history when they hired 16-year WNBA San Antonio Stars veteran Becky Hammon as a full-time assistant coach for the 2014-15 season.

While there are women coaches of men, the Hammon hire matters for a number of reasons:

1.The percent of women coaches at every level of competition has declined since the passage of Title IX in 1972…despite a record number of female sport participants. Based on the data, 20% of all college athletes–male and female–are coached by women and 43.4% of females have a woman head coach. If women are not seen in a position of power or a certain career, it is less likely other females will view that job as a viable and realistic career pathway. Seeing Hammon on the Spurs sideline matters because it communicates that women can (and do!) coach men at the highest level. It communicates a career possibility, and a lucrative one at that.

2. The best team in the NBA, the 2014 Champions San Antonio Spurs and the best coach in the NBA, 2014 NBA Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich, hired a woman coach. What winners do in the most visible and popular sports matters, because winning is valued in sport culture and society. Winners get to communicate what is valued, important and relevant. Popovich’s confidence in Hammon will help quell the gurgle of naysayers who believe women can’t coach men or help “mold boys into successful men” (as was stated by a current male head college coach in a Slate.com piece). If you believe this statement, then by the same logic, men should not coach females because they have no place in molding girls into women. Therefore, all athletes should be coached by the same sex. Obviously this is false logic as we know many male coaches help their female athletes grow and develop personally and athletically, and women coaches provide the same guidance, mentoring and coaching for males. Women can coach males at any level, but are rarely given the opportunity to do so.

Scholars argue the lack of opportunity for women to coach males at the highest level is about preserving and maintaining power. If women are given the opportunity to coach men in pro sports or D-I high-profile college mens’ teams, and succeed, who benefits and who doesn’t? If women are denied the opportunity to coach males–who benefits and who doesn’t?  If women are revealed as competent coaches in a domain historically and currently dominated by males–coaching males, and recently coaching all athletes–then the existing order of power may shift, and this makes some men who benefit from that power and privilege uneasy. All athletes can benefit from a gender-balanced and diverse work force–meaning they are coached by both men and women.

3. Hammon was hired because she is qualified and competent. It wasn’t a publicity stunt. Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich stated in a release that Hammon will be an asset to his championship team. Competence matters and Popovich believes that Hammon’s knowledge and experience as a long-time veteran player and Spurs insider, will provide value to him, the coaching staff and the players. In her NBA press conference Hammon claimed she was hired because of her background, personal skills, capabilities and basketball IQ. She owned her competence.

Kudos to Becky Hammon, a coaching pioneer, as her presence at the highest level of a major men’s sport will hopefully start a national dialogue about why women coaches matter.

Related to the issue of women coaches of male athletes…

In July 2014 Doc Rivers, head coach of the NBA Los Angeles Clippers, asked Natalie Nakase to be an assistant coach for the team’s short summer league and announced she will return as the Clipper’s assistant video coordinator, a position she held last season. Nakase made her debut coaching males when she became the first female head coach in Japanese men’s professional basketball. Nakase’s goal is to be a head coach in the NBA.

In the MLB, Kim Ng is motivated, competent, experienced and poised to become a general manager. She is currently working with Joe Torre again in the MLB executive offices as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations.

In professional men’s tennis, early in the summer of 2014 Amelie Mauresmo (2-time Grand Slam women’s tennis champion) was signed by ATP Top 10 player Andy Murray, which is in the works to become a long term arrangement.

There are other women like Hammon, Nakase, Ng and Mauresmo who want to and are competent to coach men and I hope 2014 will be the start of a trend…that competent and eager women will be considered, given a real opportunity, and hired for coaching positions, regardless of the sex of the athlete or level of competition.

To learn more about the Alliance of Women Coaches, a group dedicated to growing the number of women in the coaching profession click here.

3 Simple Ways to Support Women’s Sport

With many exciting developments recently in women’s sport such as the start of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), an extended and expanded WNBA & ESPN TV deal, the WNBA draft airing for the first time in prime time, an announcement from espnW about the Nine for IX series about women’s sport to run this summer, and exciting Women’s Final Four during March Madness, it feels as if there is a perceptible shift that women’s sport is being taken, marketed, and promoted seriously. I am optimistic, but action is still needed.

Trifecta Winner Icon - 300dpiIf you want sustainable women’s sport, and even better yet, GROWTH…there are 3 simple things you can do. These aren’t new ideas, but they are worth saying again.

1. WATCH. When women’s sport is on the TV, tune in. If you aren’t going to be home and have a DVR or DVD (not sure those exist anymore!) tape it! Don’t forget to watch the Nine for IX series!

2. BUY TICKETS. If you have a college or professional team in your area, buy season tickets. Last week Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve spoke at a TeamWomenMN event I was attending and she had a great idea. She said she is supporting the NWSL by finding the nearest team to Minneapolis (we don’t have NWSL team here…yet) and is buying a season ticket. Even through she probably won’t get to many games, she will donate her ticket to an undeserved girl, so she can attend. If you can’t go to all the games, buy a full package and split it with someone or share your tickets with friends, colleagues, neighbors or family. To read a great piece on espnW about how the NWSL will succeed by Julie Foudy, click here.

3. CLICK & SHARE. Set your Google Alerts or sign up for an RSS feed, to scan stories about women’s sport, your favorite team or athletes, or sports journalist. Once you get your list, make sure to click on the stories! Clicks = interest = increased ability to attract sponsorships = good for women’s sport. Click, read, and then share a good story via Twitter or Facebook.

If you watch, buy and click…or complete the trifecta, women’s sport will more likely be a winner.

Fight the Spread of Bikini Leagues!

If you are a female fan of sport, a fan of women’s sport, or care that female athletes and women’s sports are portrayed as legitimate and athleticism is the primary focus, I need you to be a Sports Minister!

There is a proliferation of “Bikini Leagues.” Starting with the expansion of the Lingerie Football League (which I’ve critiqued numerous times) into Canada, the LFL is trying to expand globally to Australia where it is being met with resistance from the Australian Sports Minister Kate Lundy who stated “As Minister for Sport, I can’t abide a spectacle that degrades women and threatens to undermine the progress of women in sport in Australia. It offends me that the promoters are hiding behind the guise of LFL being a ‘sport’. Lingerie Football objectifies and exploits women by trading on their sexuality to make money pure and simple.I am particularly concerned that young women watching the LFL will form the unfortunate view they can only ever hope to be taken seriously or even noticed in sport if they get their kit off.”

This is precisely why the US needs a Sports Minister!! We don’t, therefore we ALL need to take responsibility to fight Bikini Leagues and the spread of activities branded as sport, that clearly are not.

I am very troubled by LFL expansion efforts as well as the commencement of a Lingerie Basketball League and a Bikini Hockey League.…especially when Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS)–a REAL league, suspended play for 2012. Clearly there is a market for the sexualization of females, but if women refuse to play in these “leagues” there will be no leagues and no product to sell. Women who play or are considering to play in Bikini Leagues (many of whom are legitimate athletes) need to take some individual and collective responsibility.

JUST SAY NO.

DO NOT PLAY.

Do not let yourself be objectified for entertainment under the guise of sport.

Are these leagues going to increase respect for and interest in women’s professional sport? Are these leagues going to garner you respect and legitimacy as an athlete or a person? Are Bikini Leagues good for the individual, women’s sport in general, or society? What messages do Bikini Leagues send young girls about their bodies and self worth? What messages to Bikini Leagues send young boys and males about objectifying and consuming the female body, and respecting females as legitimate athletes?

What can you do to fight Bikini Leagues!?

What other suggestions to you have so that we can all take responsibility in our own ways to fight Bikini Leagues.

Sport Scandals, Sexy Babes & Social Responsibility

As I posted previously, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a host of stimulating conferences and conversations in the past eight weeks related to girls and women in sport. I’m still musing about many things, but here are three I’m ready to share.

1. As a wrote about in my last blog post, the current model of “sport” (i.e., meaning the male model of win at all costs, big business, professionalization) is broken. If you believe this statement to be true and you also believe in a “growing sense of crisis in college sports“, then who is responsible for changing the current model or changing the course of big time, revenue pursuant, entertainment style college sport? Why hasn’t the The Knight Commission, whose mission is to advocate for a “reform agenda that emphasizes academic values in an arena where commercialization of college sports often overshadowed the underlying goals of higher education” and The Drake Group whose mission is to “is to help faculty and staff defend academic integrity in the face of the burgeoning college sport industry” been more vocal or got more traction lately in the wake of some major scandals?

Relatedly, given the historically abysmal patterns of media coverage for female athletes, who is responsible for creating socially responsible images of college female athletes? (Colleagues Sally Ross at Memphis and Vikki Krane at Bowling Green are thinking & writing about this concept). Shouldn’t athletic departments be held to a higher standard of marketing female athletes? Why does a “sex sells” narrative and images still persist (see image) in college athletics where the purpose is about education, not highlighting the physical appearance or making female athletic bodies into “sexy babe” objects? Doesn’t a university have an obligation and responsibility to ensure the health, well-being, integrity and respect of female athletes, just as it also has an obligation and responsibility to put the well-being of children ahead of potential scandal and shaming high profile men’s programs and their coaches?

2. Head Coach for the WNBA Championship Minnesota Lynx, Cheryl Reeve, stated in her keynote at the Alliance of Women’s Coaches workshop held at Macalester College, that sometimes a team gains, by subtracting players in what she calls “addition by subtraction”. I think this is what college athletics needs…take football and men’s basketball out of D-I and II college athletics altogether and a great deal can be gained. However, despite recent dialogue by NCAA President Mark Emmert that radical reform is needed, yet some argue real reform for  football and men’s basketball is not possible. Think of many of the issues currently facing college athletics administrators and university presidents would go away, be diminished, or never occur if football and men’s basketball were removed from institutions of higher education. The Arms Race, rule violations, academic fraud, eligibility problems, booster and recruitment violations, pay for play, the $2K stipend, discussions of athlete unions and revenue sharing with athletes, athlete exploitation, and cover-ups of egregious coach and player behavior might be reduced. Those sports could be affiliated with a school, but athletes would not be required to attend class, but given the opportunity to earn their degree for free once the player retired from sports or desired to focus on academics. To hear colleague and Professor Allen Sack discuss these issues in depth, click here. I’m not sure college sport can or ever will be truly reformed…

Given that much of my work focuses on the youth level, where I feel I might be able to make a real difference somehow, I have come to believe the problems in college sport are related to problems at the youth sport level.

3. The current youth sport model emulates Big Time College Sport and Pro Sport…specialization, year round training, pay to play, transferring based on playing time and winning, athletes as commodities to help a franchise win, children training away from their families at elite sport academies, kids viewed as “return on investments”, development and experience are downplayed as winning and performance are center stage, team loyalty and playing with friends are sacrificed to play on elite travel teams focused on securing college scholarships, a great deal of money is spent on ensuring the right equipment and experiences, highly specialized training (e.g., strength and conditioning, agility, sport psychology) to increase the likelihood of optimal performance, and the growing number of chronic and acute injuries due to overuse and over training. The youth sport model is never going to change unless college sport is reformed. If athletics were taken out of institutions of higher education and full ride scholarships were not the “end all, be all” goal of athletes and their parents, youth sport would look a LOT different. Youth sport might just start to resemble something better…where athlete development, fun, enjoyment, positive relationships, learning, skill development, and being active and competing are fun in and of itself, rather than being a means to an end. Imagine it.

While reform in college sports may be unlikely, don’t we have a social responsibility to help ensure youth sport retains some semblance of being athlete-centered?

Comparisons between male and female athletes

While talking with a reporter today about WNBA Champions the Minnesota Lynx, I had a realization…it most likely isn’t new, but I’d never thought about selective comparisons between male and female athletes in quite this way before.

Comparisons between male and female athletes in the same sport and in general are commonplace. Today I realized that most comparisons are used to marginalize female athletes, while sustaining and promoting male athletes as the normative best.

When people want to trivialize or put down female basketball players or the WNBA for instance, the comparison goes something like this…. “Women’s basketball is boring. They don’t play above the rim, jump as high, or dunk like the men. No woman could ever play in the NBA.”

The reporter said she had written a piece which suggested that WNBA players are great athletes but more sportsmanlike, team oriented, and accessible than NBA players, which makes them appealing to watch….and she got a lot of push back and negative feedback to the effect of  “Why do you always have to compare the leagues and players?”

This got me thinking that some people use comparisons selectively to promote men’s sport and relegate women’s sport. When comparisons are used to highlight to the good or better elements of women’s sport or female athletes compared to their male counterparts, backlash usually ensues. Why? Because the upsides might make people realize that perhaps the better value and product lies in consuming women’s, not men’s, sport.

The similarity lies in the fact females are great athletes!

The difference lies in many factors, some of which I mentioned above.

Both similarities and differences can be used effectively to promote and sustain interest in and for women’s sport.

After the espnW Summit I’ve been thinking about how “we” need to reclaim some of what was lost when the AIAW was taken over by the NCAA in the early ’80’s, as well as take what is working in the current business model of sport (the traditional male model) to help promote and achieve sustainability for women’s sport. Women’s sport doesn’t have to follow or emulate what men’s college and professional sport teams are doing (i.e., conference realignments, rule violations, player strikes and lockouts, egregious behaviors, entitlement, arms race…and so on).

With the 40th anniversary of Title IX upon us soon, it is a great time to reflect on where we are, where we need to go, and how to get there.

Opposing Views of Media Portrayals of Female Athletes

With the 2011 issue of ESPN The Body Issue magazine coming to shelves Friday, and images being released online today, I thought it a good time to summarize common ways media portrayals of females athletes are framed and discussed. Today I got to hear colleague, Kent Kaiser, Ph.D., discuss his work around media framing of Title IX in print journalism. (to read his recently published article on this topic, Gender Dynamics in Producing News on Equality in Sports: A Dual Longitudinal Study of Title IX Reporting by Journalist Gender click here).

He used conflict framing as his theoretical framework to look at this issue, and coupled with my recent trip to the espnW Summit to sit an a panel to discuss if sex sell women’s sport, and colleague Mary Jo Kane’s column this summer in The Nation magazine on this topic… it got me thinking. Kaiser identified some themes in his work, that I modified, that might be a good way to promote discussion about media portrayals of female athletes. I’ll elaborate on each below.

Advocacy Frames are those that advocate that sexy, hyper-feminine, or in some cases semi-nude or nude images of females athletes are good for women’s sport and female athletes. Opposition Frames are those arguments which see such images as trivializing, problematic and doing nothing to promote respect and sustainability of women’s sport, or any particular individual female athlete.

ADVOCACY FRAMES

  • Equality-both male and female athletes are seen semi-nude or nude (i.e., the ESPN The Body Issue), so it isn’t that ONLY female athletes are portrayed this way.
  • Personal Opportunity-inclusion and portrayal of sexy, beautiful female athletic bodies provides opportunity for exposure (literally and figuratively!), sponsorship, and branding.
  • Autonomy-female athletes have a choice whether or not to pose in magazines or be photographed. No one makes them pose in those ways, they want to.
  • Market-sex sells! and people want to see sexy images of female athletes, it is what the market wants…no one is interested in seeing real female athletes that aren’t attractive, sexy or feminine.
  • Zero-Sum-there is only a limited amount of coverage for all sports, so the more women’s sport is covered or female athletes are featured, men’s sport suffers.

OPPOSITION FRAMES & COUNTER ARGUMENTS

  • Equality-yes of course male athletes are portrayed nude and semi-nude (i.e, ESPN The Body Issue), however female athletes only get 2-4% of all sport media coverage and when they do, it is most often in ways that minimize athletic competence and highlight sexy, feminine characteristics. Also, men’s sport and male athletes already enjoy respect and credibility so when male athletes are portrayed nude it means something very different culturally.
  • Personal Opportunity-Yes, posing semi/nude provides short term exposure, but no data exist that demonstrates such images lead to additional sponsorships, contract extensions, increased pay, or respect and credibility for female athletes. In nearly every professional context, when women take off their clothes it does not lead to respect and perceived credibility and competence. Additionally no data exist that demonstrates such images increase TV ratings, fan attendance, or season ticket sales….therefore opportunity for the greater good and league sustainability might actually be undermined when individual female athletes are portrayed this way.
  • Autonomy-Yes, no one is holding a gun to any female athlete’s head and they do choose to participate. Female athletes are smart…they see the women getting the most exposure and media coverage are the ones who conform to the sexy, feminine mold and they want to capitalize on their physical assets as well. However, if this way of being portrayed is the dominant model in the absence of a virtual black out of coverage that features athletic COMPETENCE, of course female athletes will choose to be included, rather than excluded. Choices are made within the context of sport, which is male-centered and male identified.
  • Market-Yes, of course sex sells! and sex sells magazines, but no data exist that demonstrates sex sells women’s sport. In fact emerging data suggest otherwise…that images of athletic competence is what sells women’s sport and help to generate respect and credibility. In addition, for years and years leagues and organizations have been selling sex, but at the same they lament the low interest in and attendance of women’ sport. Maybe it is time to try a new way to market female athletes….put athletic competence first and see what happens!
  • Zero-Sum-Female athletes are so rarely portrayed in sport media. Roughly 40% of all high school and college athletes are female, yet they are rarely portrayed in sport media. What would it look like if female athletes received close to 40% of all sport media coverage? How would that affect interest in, and respect of women’s sport? Interest in men’s sport will likely not wane or lose its cultural primacy, so why not try it?

That is enough for now…I’m off to watch some highly competent female athletes take the court in the WNBA Finals! Go LYNX!!! And I’m betting the arena will be full of fans who have come to see amazing basketball, and I will not see ONE image of a semi/nude female athlete.

The Minnesota Lynx: A Case About Media Coverage for Female Athletes

I live in Minneapolis and am a fan, advocate and scholar about gender issues in sport, particularly girls and women in sport. In the last two months, while I haven’t blogged much I have been keeping in eye on happenings around women in sport. Media coverage, or should I say the lack thereof, has been on my mind a great deal.

An anomaly was the 2011 Women’s World Cup aired and covered by ESPN = Fantastic coverage of dramatic competition, athleticism and serious athletes. Unfortunately what we see far too often is the trivialization, erasure and sexualization of female athletes…which I’ve written about a lot.  This last point is why I haven’t blogged much lately. I’m just plain depressed and discouraged that over and over again these patterns emerge, despite record numbers of females participating in sport in the post Title IX era. How many times can I write the same thing over and over without anything changing…and in fact, in most cases, is getting worse?

6 Ways Media Present Female Athletes

I’ll say it again…media coverage by major networks of female athletes has DECREASED in the last 10 years and is now down to a dismal 1.6%. (What would the Twins’ attendance or interest in the team look like if we only read 1.6% of the time about the team in the sports media or if we didn’t hear and read non-stop coverage of the team—even in the off season?)

Dave Zirin pointed out that GQ left out an entire gender when naming their 25 coolest athletes.

If you want to read a great critique and column titled “Sex Sells Sex, Not Women’s Sports” in the special sports issue of The Nation magazine written by my colleague Dr. Mary Jo Kane, Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, and get up to speed about why these trends persists and why it is problematic, I’d encourage you to read it.

You can also see an exceptional slide show of the six categories of representation of female athletes commonly witnessed in the sport media from athleticism to soft core porn if you click here. Kane argues the majority of sport media and marketers are complicit and unquestioning that sex sells women’ sport and “believe that reaffirming traditional notions of femininity and heterosexuality is a critical sales strategy.”

Ironically, in our own backyard the WNBA Minnesota Lynx are providing an interesting case study for sport media scholars. Currently the Lynx have the best record in the WNBA and have secured a playoff bid. The Lynx have a great deal of athletic talent: Whalen, Wiggens, Bruson, Augustus, and Moore are some of the players lighting up the scoreboard this season. Meanwhile…the MN Twins are struggling, the NBA is facing a lockout and the Timberwolves were horrible last season, the NFL is limping back to full speed after their lockout and the Vikings will struggle, and the NHL and MN Wild have their own issues.

Case in point: Today I got a call from a local media outlet to discuss why the Lynx are getting very little coverage despite a winning season. I was ready. I got a call 10mns later, the story was canceled– “Something better had come up”. How can people get interested in the Lynx if they don’t hear about them and the team isn’t covered?

I know for a fact that the Lynx are selling more tickets this year, over 1,000 more a game, than last year. Fans are filling the seats. People ARE interested and DO care about women’s sport. The Lynx are talented and exciting to watch. Hey sport media….PAY ATTENTION AND GIVE THE LYNX THE COVERAGE THEY DESERVE! Sport media journalists argue they will cover women’s sport when interest is there. Here is a clue: NOW IS THE TIME.

Here is a novel chicken-egg idea: The more media coverage you give the Lynx, the more people will attend and the more interest is generated.

The ironic thing is, people are interested DESPITE poor media coverage of the Lynx.

Even more ironic, people are interested in the Lynx because they are GREAT ATHLETES and are fun to watch not because the Lynx players are being marketed and portrayed in sexy and hyper-feminine ways.

Fans of women’s basketball and women’s sport want to see and read about athleticism and see quality play. They are getting that and Moore with the Minnesota Lynx.

added 9/1/11: Watch me talk to WCCO’s Jason DeRusha on the “Good Question” discuss the lack of coverage of the MN Lynx.

Advice to Females Seeking Careers in Sports

Yesterday I was invited to be part of a panel for the inaugural Minnesota Lynx Girls and Women in Sport Career Day (kudos to Carly Knox and her Lynx colleagues for putting on this event!)

Myself and 5 other women in the Twin Cities area spoke about our experiences, career pathway, advice for being successful in a male dominated profession and  “a-ha!” moments in our careers. On the panel with me: Cheryl Reeve, Head coach MN Lynx; Laura Day; VP of Business Development for the Twins; Britt Carlson, Director of Premium Seating at Minnesota Timberwolves & Target Center; Rachel Blount, StarTribune Sports Columnist; and rookie Lynx player Monica Wright.

I didn’t know what to expect but I learned a great deal from these accomplished women! There were many common themes, which I found fascinating because we wrote our comments independently. Here are some take homes and some reflections I’ve had since last night:

1. NETWORK!!! Get your foot in the door any way you can, and when you get the opportunity make the most of it. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so be ready and remember you are always interviewing for a job. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Seek out mentors and surround yourself with good people. I loved when Monica Wright told the audience, “Be loud and confident, and project yourself well”…which she was modeling!

2. Follow your passion. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of your passion and goals. One young woman in the audience asked Coach Reeve if she thought more women would begin to coach men. I wanted to tell this young woman that statistically speaking her chances were very low, but on second thought…good for her! We need more females thinking coaching males is a viable career pathway and to strive to make inroads. If a young man had asked about coaching women, no one would of batted an eyelash. You Go Girl!….coach those males, and pursue your passion. Rachel Blount told a story about how a college football coach once told her to “go back to baking biscuits” rather than try to interview one of his players. She told me that not once in her 25 years as a sport reporter did she think of not doing what she loved, “I was born to do this!” she claimed emphatically….and I agree!

What was really interesting to me is that we were all asked to talk about our experiences in a male dominated profession. Only myself and Rachel Blount talked explicitly about sexism and how females are statistically the token minority in all sports careers. The other women said they’d never experienced sexism or any male-created obstacles–or perhaps didn’t want to talk about it if they had. I was really surprised by their admissions especially because I had I just ordered two books I cannot wait to read on this subject–Sexism in America: Alive, Well and Ruining Our Future (Berg, 2009), and Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work is Done (Douglas, 2010). I think both books will help me reflect on these women’s claims of a lack of experienced sexism. I came upon these books when I found a new blog this week titled Equality Myth: Young Women, Sexism, and the Workplace which got me thinking about how these concepts apply to my work with female coaches.

One young woman asked the panel why none of us mentioned children and how having kids influenced our careers. All of us looked at each other and a silent awkward pause ensued….none of us had children! Was it coincidental that all 5 women (I’ll exclude Monica Wright, because she isn’t in the same place in her career as the rest of us) were successful yet had no children? I immediately had a sick feeling. What did this mean? What message did it send to the young women in the audience who wanted both a career and children?

I quickly thought of Arlie Hochschild’s work on “the second shift”, which still unfortunately still holds true for a majority of women. The second shift for working women, is the idea a “second shift” or job starts when she comes home and is largely responsible for domestic and child-rearing duties. From the work I’ve done with female coaches, many of them discuss how coaching is only possible for them because their husbands also coach and that is “just what our family does”. My message to the audience was–if you want to have a family and career (which is possible!), be sure to choose a partner that will be supportive of your passion  and is willing to be equally involved in child care and domestic duties. One problem in this model is that on average women still make 77 cents to every $1 made by men, so having 2 working parents isn’t always the best financial choice if the cost of child care, outweighs the second income (here is fact sheet written by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on the gender pay gap). So which income goes? The one who earns the least…which is usually the female (if the couple is male-female).

I have a lot more thinking to do about these topics and what it means for my career, my research and teaching, and for the next generation of young women. The event was very empowering and energizing, but the reflections I’ve had since the event have been admittedly depressing. I like action items that lead to social change, but when the actions required are tackling gender stereotypes, male power, and work/family gender roles…it seems daunting! But I will take my own advice and not let anything get in the way of pursuing my passion, which is trying to make a difference in the lives of females in and through sport.

What are your thoughts?