Barriers persist in the advancement of women in sports, Doyle finds
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Auburn Hills, Mich. – October 9, 2017 – It has been nearly four decades since Anne Doyle helped lead the fight for women journalists to have equal access as their male peers to interview athletes in professional and college sports locker rooms. Yet even today, sports can be very hostile territory for female reporters, as evidenced by the recent comments of NFL Quarterback Cam Newton and social media backlash to the first woman to call an NFL Monday Night Football game.
Doyle, a Michigan Journalism Hall of Famer, global speaker, change agent and author of the recently released, new edition of Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders, became one of the first female sports broadcasters in a major market when she was hired by WJBK-TV/CBS in Detroit. She provided a personal historic perspective about the progress of women in sportscasting in the September 2017 issue of Insiders Sportsletter, “The Voice of Sports.”
“Gayle Gardner and I were both hired in the fall of 1978 as two of the very first women, full-time TV sports broadcasters working in major markets. Because we were hired almost simultaneously with a New York Federal Court ruling that sports teams could not discriminate by refusing female reporters the same access as their male peers to interview players, we were among the first women sports reporters in the country to enter sports locker rooms,” Doyle recounted in the Insiders Sports letter article.
“It is one thing for the courts to rule that teams cannot refuse women reporters equal access to athletes, but it is another thing entirely to be a young, female sports reporter standing outside a sports locker room, practically hyperventilating and forcing yourself to walk inside and face whatever tests were waiting for you,” she added. “And yes, there were plenty of interesting tests waiting for me and other women who entered those male inner sanctums.”
Doyle credits her father, Vince Doyle, in part, for her activism on the issue. He was the sports director at WWJ Radio, the University of Michigan football broadcaster and president of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association at the time. My father and I were both well aware of the controversy I would face by moving from TV news to TV sports. But he urged me to take the job and to insist on equal access to players. ‘You will have no credibility as a sports reporter if you don’t enter those locker rooms,’ my father advised.”
Although much has improved, Doyle says progress toward female advancement in sports is an ongoing crusade against sexism in the industry. “Despite having legal rights and educational and economic opportunities that many of our global sisters only dream of, gender progress here in the United States remains glacial. Women at every level are still contending with frat-boy, female-hostile work environments in Silicon Valley and network news rooms, as well as sports locker rooms.”
Doyle only need point to two recent examples. Last month, ESPN/CBS sports announcer Beth Mowins made history by becoming the first woman to call an NFL game on Monday Night Football. Despite her superior play-by-play reporting, Mowins received intense social media scrutiny and backlash, primarily from men, complaining about the sound of a female voice.
Just a few weeks later, Carolina Panther Quarterback Cam Newton laughed when Charlotte Observer football beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue asked him a question about pass routes. “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes like — it’s funny,” Newton responded.
Doyle isn’t surprised by the social media backlash against Mowins or insulting comments toward female reporters from a pro football player. “That’s been par for the course for decades. But what is new is the criticism Newton received from male sportswriters, fans and even corporate sponsors for his demeaning treatment of a respected female reporter,” Doyle explained. Many male sports writers wrote critical commentaries and Dannon Yogurt immediately dropped Newton as a product spokesman.
“I’m thrilled to see men getting in the game with us as allies for women working in sports,” Doyle said. But she also believes that women must begin leveraging the collective power of “Team Women” in order to achieve equality, respect and their rightful places in all leadership arenas.
As an example, Doyle cites in her book when the 2016 U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team members threatened to boycott the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships for not receiving fair wages and the same support as their male counterparts.
“Even though USA Hockey attempted to form a replacement team with pro, college and high school players, the women athletes stood together with their hockey sisters refusing to play, and as a result, the women’s team won a four-year contract with USA Hockey—marking a stunning victory for gender equity,” Doyle said.
In addition to her writing and speaking engagements, Doyle currently serves as the President of the Michigan chapter of the International Women’s Forum, the preeminent global network for women of achievement from 37 countries. Under Doyle’s leadership, Detroit recently won the privilege of hosting IWF’s Global Conference in October 2020, the first time in the organization’s 45-year history, bringing 1,200 women leaders from every continent except Antarctica to the Motor City. She will represent Michigan at the IWF’s 2017 World Leadership Conference, which will be held in Houston, Oct. 25-27.
About Insiders Sportsletter
Insiders Sportsletter, “The Voice of Sports,” is published by the American Sportscasters Association (ASA), a non-profit organization that promotes, supports and enhances the needs and interests of professional sports broadcasters. Since its founding in 1979, the ASA has been a resource of information and guidance for those interested in becoming a sportscaster, promoting the highest standards of ethics, integrity and professional conduct.
About Anne Doyle and Powering Up Women
From journalist, corporate executive and public servant to author, global speaker and commentator, the trajectory of Anne Doyle’s entire life has been toward empowering women. A trailblazing TV news and sports broadcaster, Doyle was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame for her role in opening sports locker rooms to women reporters. She earned her business stripes with Ford Motor Company, where she rose to Director of North America Communications and was named one of the “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.” Doyle also entered public service as a four-year member of the Auburn Hills City Council from 2009–2013, and by invitation, participated in the U.S. Department of State’s International Speaker & Information Programs. The author of Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders, Doyle is the founder of Powering Up Women, LLC, a leadership consulting practice. To learn more about Anne Doyle or to purchase Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders, click here.