Call to hire qualified female sports journalists

The hallway of the Fox Sports Asia office, on March 9, 2015. Pictures of the station’s presenters line the walls, with men making up the majority of these presenters. Colette Wong (left), 40, is one of the few women who have lasted in the sports journalism industry. CAMPUS EYE/Amelia Dawson (SINGAPORE)
The hallway of the Fox Sports Asia office, on March 9, 2015. Pictures of the station’s presenters line the walls, with men making up the majority of these presenters. Colette Wong (left), 40, is one of the few women who have lasted in the sports journalism industry. CAMPUS EYE/Amelia Dawson (SINGAPORE)

By Amelia Dawson

SINGAPORE, March 9, 2015 (Campus Eye) – Some 40 years after sports started being broadcasted, the number of female presenters who endure in the industry are few.

The average time a woman spends as a sports journalist in Singapore is 2.6 years, according to Fox Sports Asia’s public relations team.

In contrast, women make up almost half of viewers, according to research by ESPN in 2010.

Many sports journalists feel that this is due to executives hiring women for the wrong reasons and the pressures faced during the job.

Glenn Connley, 42, a senior producer and correspondent at Seven Network Australia, who previously worked for ESPN STAR Sports, said: “They have been hired as presenters … even though they don’t have the necessary experience, knowledge or even interest in the subject.

“In many cases, they are hired because they look good or speak well.”

He added that some executives think hiring attractive female presenters is a good way to lure or please male viewers.

Fox Sports Asia presenter, Colette Wong Mei-Ern, 40, agreed that there is a difference in criteria when hiring female presenters as compared to their male counterparts.

“There was a time at my workplace when the producers were looking to use attractive, hot young women to front their sport shows.

“Knowledge did not seem a priority … and even if they did know plenty about sports, the ladies were encouraged to flaunt their good looks and appear bimbo-ish rather than given the chance to show off their knowledge,” she said.

Many females begin to feel pressured because “executives and audiences navigate towards an attractive person, and as a woman ages, they are deemed to be less attractive”, said Wong.

Pressure also comes from vocal sports fans who demand accurate analyses and information.

Paula Malai Ali, 41, presenter at Fox Sports Asia, said: “Being a woman means we are under a lot more scrutiny and may have many people ready to call us out at the slightest mistake we may make, as if to prove ‘I told you women shouldn’t be hosting my favourite sports.’”

Both sports journalists and fans feel that the lack of female sports journalists has had a detrimental effect on both women and the male audiences.

Connley said: “Like any job anywhere, the only criterion for hiring an employee should be finding the best person for the job, regardless of gender.

“In fact, by hiring ‘token’ or under-qualified female presenters, broadcasters insult their female viewers and underestimate their male viewers.”

Supporting Connley’s views, Malai Ali said: “I feel networks need to start employing female hosts who are not only good-looking but are willing to really understand what it is they are doing and to work hard.”

There have been only two female sports journalists—Wong and Malai Ali—in the last 20 years who have worked at Fox Sports Asia for more than five years, while eight male presenters have done so.

Wong had been a sports presenter at the Media Corporation of Singapore and ESPN STAR Sports for four and nine years respectively; Malai Ali has been with Fox Sports Asia since 2008.

Even for male fans, there is a growing desire for more female presenters.

Full-time National Serviceman, Darren Sim Teck In, 20, is a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA) programmes.

Referring to male and female presenters, Sim said: “Besides superficial differences like personalities or presentation styles, there is very little difference, often their content and knowledge of the sport seems the same to me.

“With the rise of female MMA stars both locally and internationally, I do think that more women sports journalists would definitely help to further magnify the rise of women in various sports,” he added.

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