JOURNAL: Women in Sports & Sports Media

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Photo by Izzy Bonebrake

Marquette women’s basketball head coach Megan Duffy played at Notre Dame and in the WNBA.

According to an article written in March 2021 by Paola Boivin of Global Sport Matters, only 10% of sports editors and 11.5% of sports reporters are women.

While there is still abundant room for improvement, what we see today in the sports industry is much better than what we have seen in the past.

Nancy Armour graduated from Marquette University in 1991 with a double major in journalism and political science. She currently works for USA Today as a sports reporter.

“We have seen the popularity of women’s sports in particular soccer, the WNBA have just exploded and if you don’t have women telling those stories, if you don’t have women making the decisions in sports, a lot of times those go uncovered because unfortunately for most male lenses they don’t think about those, or they don’t deem it as important as the NBA or as MLB or the NFL and we need to get away from that kind of thinking,” Armour says.

Marquette alum Jenny Fischer, who now works as a digital and social content publisher for the NBA, interned with the Milwaukee Brewers during her first summer in college, and was the only woman in the media relations office when she was a public relations intern.

“I did not know which way I really wanted to go, and I remember it was not like there weren’t any women at all. It has grown enough to the point where it is so normalized, and it has been talked about for a long time,” Fischer says. “If you turn on ESPN you see women in sports, and not only women but Black women. You see diversity, equity and inclusion; I think from where I have gone to where I am now it is really good to see.”

Fischer mentioned now working with the WNBA, “a lot of the WNBA staff in the league office are women so it’sreally awesome to see a women’s league, ran by women.”

This past summer, Fischer had the opportunity to cover the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns as well as running Media Day at the WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas.

Being a native of Milwaukee, Fisher said covering the Bucks Championship run was a special moment for her.

“I used to go to games when I was a kid when they were like 14 and 52, when Brandon Jennings was on the team (and) now I am capturing content of him at the Bucks game when it was Bucks in six, which is the slogan that he came up with,” Fischer says.

Fischer says what she enjoys the most about her job is being as close to who the story is about and do the story justice.

Armour says her love for sports writing is the opportunity to tell stories.

“There is such a rich environment, even if you are covering a game to tell stories of certain people,” Armour says. “To me it is a much more colorful and robust way to do writing and to do storytelling.”

However, Armour, who started out as a South Bend Correspondent for the Associated Press, says it hasn’t been easy all the time.

“We still have a long way to go, unfortunately, but when I was covering Notre Dame, I was the only woman in the room,” Armour says. “I remember when I got to Chicago, and granted this was 1998, I think there were three or four other women covering sports on a regular basis. There were a couple of women in sports radio, I think there was one in TV. It was a revelation to me that I was not the only one out there.”

Armour says the biggest difference to her has been athletes growing up in an era where there isn’t just one woman in sports media.

“They grew up watching Michele Tafoya and Doris Burke. They grew up reading Sally Jenkins and Christine Brennan. It’s not out of the ordinary to them, so I think that has made it much easier,” Armour says. “We still fight the battles of trolls and even some people that we work with that don’t see us in the same light as the men who cover sports.”

Marquette women’s basketball head coach Megan Duffy, who played at Notre Dame and in the WNBA, said along with her coaching staff she makes sure there are conversations said to help her players.

“We try to talk to our team, a lot of times about many things that are going on with inequities. We’re not afraid to discuss different topics, how they feel and most importantly how we can move forward and make an impact,” Duffy says.

The 2019-20 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year says another key component to the conversation and solution is having allies.

“It’s not just the people who are playing women’s basketball or people who are coaching, we want more people to be thinking of  ways they can help the women’s game, whatever sport we’re talking about, improve and increase,” Duffy says.

Fast forward to this past March at the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments when University of Oregon redshirt sophomore forward Sedona Prince posted a TikTok video showing disparities between the men’s and women’s weight room in the NCAA bubbles.

Although this disparity came as a shock for Duffy and her team, she says this has been a fight that women have been battling for decades.

“There were some very very clear and distinct inequalities between the men’s and the women’s tournament. It’s really unfortunate, it’s something we have been dealing with not just in the tournament but years of trying to build our brand and have the equity come in everything we are approached with,” Duffy says.

Following her graduation from Marquette in 2019, Fischer worked for the NCAA’s Championships Digital and Social Media Department. Like Duffy, Fisher says she was surprised to see everything unfold the way it did after her time with the NCAA.

Fischer says she is glad that the issue was brought to light because it is something that has to change. At the end of the day she says we need to figure out why all of this is the case in the first place.

“That’s good journalism at the end of the day, asking why over and over and over again,” Fischer said. “The deeper we get into that and the more improvements we see this year, that will be a sign of how well the NCAA has responded, key stakeholders have responders, broadcast partners, all that because again it all plays a role in it, it’s not just this institution, there are a lot of factors.”

This article was written by Kelly Reilly. She can be reached at kelly.reilly@marquette.edu or on Twitter @kellyreillyyy.