In 2019, the Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMs) put together some facts and figures to give us a snapshot of sports media across major international events in 2018 – focusing on BAME and female journalists. These were concentrated in 338 roles across broadcast and written media. This is the perfect example of why the sports media industry has failed women at all levels. Out of 338 positions, only 98 are women, and of the 98, 32 are from a BAME background. There are zero BAME female writers in newspapers, seven Asian journalists in sports media roles, and only three female writers from the national UK sports media went to the FIFA World Cup. In our own research, 40% of athletes in the UK are females, but they only receive seven per cent of the media coverage.
Where is the fairness in this? As a society, we have a social and moral responsibility to change. A diverse newsroom has the power to create change and be a trusted voice that really reflects what is going on in society today. My struggles over the years have led me to question this on many occasions, why things are the way they are? I came from Africa as a young girl with big dreams to a place I thought I was equal, but I quickly learned that isn’t the case.
I learned that lesson in South Africa in 2017 when some of our favourite NBA players refused to do an interview for a broadcasting house I was working for because they didn’t appreciate the inequality I had faced during my time there. They encouraged me to take off the branding of the broadcaster and report as a freelancer. At that moment, I cried because others had recognized my silent struggle and allowed me to change the narrative.
Looking back at my efforts, I see similar experiences for Juventus star Eniola Aluko and Lianne Sanderson, Chelsea star Anita Asante, Arsenal’s Danielle Carter, and tennis star Serena Williams to name a few – imagine a media landscape that doesn’t notice my gender or ethnicity? Something to think about.
Now, I talk from the standpoint of a black woman in the UK, but I speak for all women who have been in a position of unfairness. This is personal to me because I don’t want any woman to go through what I have had to go through just to talk about sports. I want the next generation (girls or boys) to see sports as a sport and not as something that only men and boys do. I want society to get some guts and change the narrative, where men are confident to stand for those amazing women within their organization, working ridiculously hard to change the culture. I am tired of the saying, “that’s how things are in this industry.” Change it.
With the excitement of the FIFA Women’s World Cup building and our Lionesses heading to France this summer, let’s not forget that in order to succeed we must stand together in solidarity in the media with all women from all walks of life and protect them at all cost. This is not a competition to me; it is a call to action for all media organizations and brands to help change the media landscape because GiveMesport Women can’t do it alone.
The future is exciting, not just because of the football but because of all the other sports that will be taking place for women – let’s embrace each other. We have a responsibility to tell the story of women in a way that truly reflects them. Being the first journalist to break a story might get you the hype, but being an honest and factual journalist will get you the respect and legacy you deserve. It is a struggle; it’s not a walk in a park. We still have some dinosaurs in our boardrooms, offices and are newsrooms.
Women’s sports and women in sport have a legacy we should represent and celebrate. All I can do is apologize for not getting into this post quicker to help change the narrative of women in sport. But I am here now, to help change for ALL women going forward because we all deserve it.