Believe it or not...
I was told recently, when commenting privately about a recent media creation, the disappointment about seeing the lack of women and people of color holding cameras in a well known professional sporting space that "you can't force cameras into women's hands or force women onto the sideline purely based on a diversity quota". It was at the point that I realized my comment hit a very telling nerve. I had worked in a similar space with this person and we'd had on the field conversations enough in the past to classify them as an acquaintance, so I didn't think they would assume, although the message was very clear, that I was attacking them or their work personally. I told them I thought it was beautifully done, but more so it was just an observation in what I saw outside of the picture.
I also want to note that I wasn't the only one who addressed it, as similar thoughts by others were posted on a variety of public social media platforms after seeing the same content. I apologized. I didn't get a response, but then I realized I was blocked.
How disappointing to know a professional acts that way, but that action also reiterates that my comment hit a nerve.
Not only that, this person lost the admiration and respect I had for them. I'm sure it doesn't matter to them, but as one who tries to conduct themselves with integrity it absolutely would bother me.
I can't tell you the number of pictures I see posted from events that highlight media and there are usually 1-2 women and people of color in the group to every 6-8 men. All one needs to do is to pause a sporting event during a sideline/end zone shot to see the disproportionate numbers of male to female creatives. I'm probably off on that ratio, in fact, I would say it's a much bigger ratio than this.
I've heard the term gatekeepers referenced when talking about Directors of Media more often then not, referencing the middle age white men who are at the helm of many of the organizations. That is disappointing because it also makes one realize that it's been an ongoing issue. However, as one who has many times experienced degrading remarks in the sport space from men, it doesn't surprise me that others feel there is an issue. Things I've heard that would never be said to their male counterparts:
- I bet it sucks carrying the gear for the photographer (when walking from one media well to another carrying my gear with my visible credential that says "team photographer")
- You won't be able to shoot with that lens. It's too big of lens for sideline football.
- Questioned "who are you and what are you doing on the field" with a clear credential on my neck. Also to note this person knew I had been involved with the program a couple of years.
- Do you even know anything about this sport?
Sadly, most female creatives have experienced similar degrading treatment, and I believe this is part of the issue and why women struggle breaking into the space. I can't speak for people of color as to what they experience verbally, but I do know that it's evident they are not fairly represented in the space.
The big question is, why? Why aren't more women or people of color in the space? To answer the above statement I was given, "you can't force cameras into women's hands or force women onto the sideline purely based on a diversity quota", you're actually wrong. You don't need to force that to happen because there already are a significant number of talented individuals that would be able to produce similar, and possibly even better, content than there is now in some spaces. So I don't understand why and it's time a deeper look and challenge to help create change needs to happen.
Uncomfortable conversations create growth and allow you to receive insight from a different perspective, which is vital to produce ideas on ways to create change for the better. To be crystal clear, the issue with women and people of color in the media sporting space is absolutely an uncomfortable conversation because, inevitably, the person who is intimidated by it is worried they are going to be replaced. I would venture to say that the reality of that is probably true, but I also believe that many of these organizations absolutely have the budget space to create additional media opportunities and still have a substantially ridiculous profit margin. At the minimum, implementation for ensuring a more balanced representation in the space can happen as those who've been in the space for long periods of time are slowly retiring, as well as for the freelance space where there are boundless opportunities to have a variety of creators to choose from.
I do believe in order for this to happen, upper tier leadership has to make a clear directive that the sporting space is no longer a good 'ole boys club. It's time to take a deeper look into how hiring and contracting is done and find better ways to have equal representation based on experience, notwithstanding that for years it's likely evident the line of discrimination has been skirted more times that not.
I hope others see how vital it is that changes needs to happen. There has been a significant increase in those interested in Media/Creative opportunities as a career path and there is a way to help them achieve that regardless of sex, skin color or age.
P.S. Women and People of Color belong in the Media Sports Space
Image courtesy of The Granite Games