Broadcast journalism and sports media has been a male dominated industry from the moment the profession started. Because of this it has made it hard for women to advance in the field and get the same opportunities as their male counterparts. This is why organizations like the Association For Women in Sports Media make it their mission to create a sisterhood that empowers women in sports media, while providing them with professional and personal guidance throughout their career.
AWSM is not just a club that is located at one college, it is a nationwide organization spread across 20 different journalism schools with a variety of chapters dedicated to helping women in sports media.
One of the most prominent and diverse chapters is the one at Arizona State University. It differs from other chapters as most of AWSM is rooted in long term traditional journalism schools, while ASU is newer than most and offers branches in not only media but personal relations, and social media with an executive board dedicated to bringing new people in.
The connections and resources that are available through this organization put women in a position to help their career. There are internship connections across the nation, a mentor program to pair women who are just starting a career in media with someone who’s already in their desired field, and a scholarship that comes with the opportunity to travel to the national AWSM convention.
Riley Trujillo, the president of the AWSM chapter at ASU, was one of eight recipients nationwide of this scholarship. She was able to travel to Tampa Bay, Florida for the convention in 2019 and meet powerful women in the sports media field and make connections.
She described it as one of the best opportunities in her college career. Seeing women from all over in her field of work was inspiring and she expressed her gratefulness for everything AWSM has done for her professionally and personally.
“Through all of the trials and journeys I have been through AWSM has consistently been there for me. It provides references, resources, and advice (and) prepares you for the industry giving every tool to advance your career,” Trujillo said.
Many members felt the same way and said how they couldn’t stress enough the importance of having that backbone of a group of women just like them pursuing the same goal, to be able to fall back on and seek guidance from.
When people hear words like diversity or talk about minorities in a workplace, the first thing that comes to mind is race and ethnicities. What is forgotten is women are a minority as well in the media industry and to add diversity the industry needs to add more women.
There is a disconnect between males and females and to bridge this gap both genders have to do their part whether it is men being allies and supporting their female colleagues, or for women to continue to use groups like AWSM to raise awareness and educate others on what they can do to help for the future.
Gabrielle Ducharme has been a member of AWSM since her freshman year at ASU, and she made it clear on her stance of women and males in the workplace and what can be done to help bridge the gap on both ends.
“It’s a two-way street as women become more invested and go into sports journalism, employers need to take notice of that and invest in that new perspective,” Ducharme said.
The perspective she mentions is one that is often not talked about. In journalism and media women can offer a unique perspective at times on different situations that males may not be able to see. This is why diversity in the newsroom is a necessity because it allows for every angle to be presented giving the best opportunity to give out the best product or final result.
“Women in journalism have a different perspective and in an incredible way to zoom out on a situation that a lot of male counterparts can’t do,” Ducharme said.
This is not a knock on male journalists but rather provides insight on the next steps needed to create a more inclusive environment and material that represents everyone.
The lack of diversity in sports media for women can also make it discouraging for young women who are just entering the field. Sports is already considered a man’s profession and while more women are covering games than ever before, there still aren’t many role models for young girls to look up to on their television screens.
ESPN’s Rachel Nichols hosting the NBA Finals and reporters like Doris Burke have been trailblazers in inspiring women in media that they, too, can get to these higher positions, but the message that gets portrayed is that women like them are the exception. Instead it needs to be normalized.
Because it is so rare to see a woman thrive in the media it can create a sense of competition between women who are trying to make it, because they feel there are already a limited amount of opportunities so they have to climb over others instead of helping each other out.
This is another reason AWSM is so valuable. Instead of competing and kicking people when they’re down, they rally together and help each other no matter the age or gender. The mission is to see all women succeed.
Gina Mizell, the AWSM vice president who also, oversees the organization’s professional programs, said this sisterhood was not competitive and was always looking to help every member.
“We have to make it easier for each other. We can’t be competing and fighting with each other, we can support and empower each other … It’s a matter of lifting our woman up and being there for one another,” Mizell said.
Mizell has had a very notable career that has included covering the San Diego Padres, the Phoenix Suns and Oregon State but she constantly states the important role AWSM has played in her success as a woman in journalism and media.
She joined AWSM ten years ago when she was a senior at ASU and it is still relevant in her life today. It has helped shape her career to the point where she describes it as one of the best decisions she has ever made.
“AWSM has been the single most important thing of my career, it has helped me with tangible stuff and people I know from AWSM helping me get jobs or making me aware of jobs,” Mizell said.
This organization is more than a club one joins at school. The roots of AWSM have a history that dates back to 1987, when there were just a handful of women covering sports in the entire country. Women who are a part of this are a part of something bigger than themselves, with a mission that affects all women looking to join a profession in sports media.
This sisterhood does not end after graduation either; it is a national organization that allows women to connect with one another no matter where they are or what they are doing in their career.
Groups like AWSM help add more diversity and women leaders in sports media so hopefully one day the little girl who wants a career in sports media can look at a TV and constantly see women just like her and understand that her dreams are attainable.
Now that is awesome.