MONTCLAIR, NJ - "What's it like to be the only woman in the locker room?" This question is asked more often than usual in Sports Illustrated (SI) Emily Kaplan's day-to-day routine as the youngest staff writer for the known franchise.
On March 19, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center held MSU's Women in Sports Media Panel featuring Kaplan, along with WABC-TV sports anchor Laura Behnke, and former USA Today reporter and assistant professor at MSU Kelly Whiteside. The event was hosted by Montclair State associate professor Marc Rosenweig and the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.
The panel focused on many issues women face today when pursuing a career in a male-dominated field such as Sports Media. Some of the biggest challenges are the biased views including the misconception that women don't have enough knowledge about sports to be occupying jobs that were predisposed for men by society.
"I feel like we've come a long way in some areas and we have gone back in others. We've gotten to a point where its more normal not to have women on television. In some way it's cool," says Laura Behnke, solidifying her view as where women find themselves in the world of sports media.
"There have been women before who have paved the way for me to believe that this is something you could do if you came in worked hard and knew your stuff. To me, knowing sports was the most important thing no matter what," she added.
With dozens of women sending their resumes and applications to agencies like CBS, ESPN and The Bleacher Report, it comes as no surprise the size of the constructed barrier that the male-dominated society has created for women in locker rooms and press boxes around the country.
As Whiteside alludes to on the panel, women occupy a surprisingly 10% of employees in sports media. This statistic hasn't changed much in the last 20 years.
"You'd think from when I started, the statistics would've been at least 20% or something significantly higher. There are several stand-out personalities, but in terms of where we have to go we need numbers and opportunities where women in television have more extended roles" states Whiteside.
The panel that lasted an hour Thursday morning also touched on the image women represent in television and media, mentioning how a selected number of professionals are solely hired due to their looks instead of their knowledge and credentials.
"There's currently no women senior writers and few women editors at SI. I can count on one hand how many women we have on our staff, and with men it'll probably take me a while," said Kaplan.
As for what the future has to bring, Behnke finished on a hopeful yet realistic note, hoping for a more aggressive generation of young female sports reporters.
"I hope that enough competent, capable women continue to come in and fight for those jobs. I do know there's always ups and lows and I know now we're in a low point that we could come out of if women come up and fight for these positions," finalized Behnke.