What's happening?

Women in sports journalism
18 Apr 2024
by Bayley Hodgetts

Year 10 student Bayley Hodgetts recently joined us at J&PR for work experience. Bayley dreams of going into sports journalism in the future, so we asked her to share her thoughts on the industry…it’s quite the read!

We know the world of sports is a male-dominated industry. And we also know the female side is expanding and developing at an extraordinary rate, compared to when we were banned from even playing football in the UK in 1921 until 1970

I would love to revel in the incredible achievements women have made in sports, but we are not here to talk about the athletes today. We are here to talk about ‘the behind the scenes’ per se, the things you perhaps wouldn’t think about if your team is losing 3-2 in the 90th minute… 

We are here to talk about female journalists.

And not just in football! As Brits we often struggle to consider any other sports beyond the chaos of football. Believe it or not, there is also rugby, cricket, athletics, hockey, netball, basketball, tennis, motorsports, I’m sure I could name them forever. I am a huge football fan myself, as well as a huge Formula 1 fan!

Journalism and sports go hand in hand

Just as we have noticed an astronomical rise in the popularity of females in sport, we have also noticed a rise in the number of females in the sports journalism industry. 

There are many recognisable names such as Alex Scott, Suzie Perry, Natalie Quirk, Sonja McLaughlan, and so many more. Every single one of these incredible women has achieved so many things and made historical breakthroughs in the world of sports.

There’s still progress to be made

With all of that said, I think we can all agree the percentage of men in the industry heavily outweighs the women. 

This is simply because of the lack of opportunities available to women in the past, and the slow rise of them in the present. 

For example, one in five students who registered to study NCTJ-accredited sports journalism courses in the 2023/24 academic year were women; in 2022, just over 40% of journalists in the industry were female

We could argue the stereotypical ideology that “girls just aren’t as interested in sports as boys”; we could also argue women and men are just meant for different things (none of which I believe). 

However, I think it all comes down to the suffocating attitudes of society. 

A society which refuses to believe a woman is capable of success; a society which refuses to believe a woman can “know what she’s talking about” in sports; a society which refuses to believe we should have equal rights in the workplace.

I have heard far too many sexist comments made about female commentators or journalists, whether they were jokes or not. 

Why should women be frowned upon for having a successful career? For doing something they love? For making breakthroughs in their industry? 

The answer is that we shouldn’t. 

For centuries, women and girls have been left to stand in a decimated battlefield with nothing but our passions and dignities to protect us. Every female has been forced to grow up in a world of sexism, misogyny and prejudice. Can you tell me how this is fair? 

Why has it taken so long?

The first female football commentator was Jacqui Oatley in 2007, over thirty years after we were allowed to play!

The first female commentator in motorsport was Natalie Pinkham, first appearing in the pit lanes at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix! 

Why has it taken us so long to realise women can do it too? 

And why is it still sluggishly catching up?

It can’t happen if we aren’t given the opportunities and pathways, which I believe we are now making progress to provide.

Don’t think I am not proud and grateful for the huge progressions made in recent years from both women and men. I do believe that societal attitudes towards the role of women in sports journalism is changing slowly but surely in a positive way. 

And I believe there is a clear path for girls like me whose goal is to be successful in the sports journalism industry. 

But progress can’t continue if we don’t actively choose to support women in such an industry, and if we don’t choose to expand our mindsets as well. It is everyone’s job to collectively change our attitudes for the better and create so many more opportunities for women in sports journalism!

Paving the way

The women we see on our screens, in the pits and on the side of pitches as they interview, commentate, report and have their voices heard are actively paving the way for generations to come as they break down those barriers.

As a teenage girl who dreams of being a female in sports journalism, it has been inspiring to watch more and more women journalists not just in the world of female sports, but also the male game. 

It has made it much easier to see myself in their shoes one day.