Not just a pretty face
Women in sports recount the fight for respect in male-dominated industry
WOMEN IN sports media have not earned their space in the industry because of their good looks said members of the media, who spoke at the fourth annual Women in Sports conference, at the Hotel Four Seasons in St Andrew on Tuesday.
Mariah Ramharack (SportsMax), Denise Walters (Television Jamaica) and sports photographer Sanzett Facey all gave accounts of their journey into the field of sports journalism and their challenges in being accepted by a male-dominated sports fraternity.
Trinidad and Tobago-born Ramharack recounted how difficult it was when she left her country four years ago to take up her job as a presenter on SportsMax.
However, she pointed that through her self-belief and hard work, she has dispelled many of the perceptions people initially had of her.
“Life is an obstacle course meant to distract you from the main goal. When I started sports broadcasting as a fresh, young woman, being at these massive press conferences and being little in size … these men in broadcasting have been doing it all of my days, and I would feel shy to ask my questions [thinking] when you ask the questions they [will] probably think you sound dumb,” she told the gathering.
“The platform that I am on, I am expected to ask difficult questions. So when I am in a press conference, I am going to ask the hard questions and now I am able to be seen with such authority and not just as a pretty face.”
She added: “It is so easy to walk into a room and people see you as just this girl that looks good and not see you as what you represent and I have had a lot of challenges.
“I used to see comments on YouTube and people were mean, but now those comments are not there, ever,” she said.
TVJ's Denise Walters also expressed similar sentiments in her address.
“You are judged based on your looks and they think that you look good, so that is how you get your job and not because you know sports,” said Walters.
Walters recalled how, in 2018, she was a part of the World Cup TV panel and was asked how Argentina would fare.
She commented that they wouldn't make it past the second round and right away the station was bombarded with calls and comments on social media.
“I was pulled from the panel, but Argentina didn't pass the first round. So just do your job and stay firm in your convictions,” said Walters.
The event, organised by Yardie Sports, included female sports administrators, athletes, sports and media personalities on hand to share experiences and offer motivation.
The other presenters included Karen Anderson, president of the Jamaica Squash Association; Cydonie Mothersille, general secretary of the Cayman Islands Athletics Association; Tricia Robinson, president of Netball Jamaica; Shanice Beckford, Sunshine Girl; Raymond Anderson, Jamaica Football Federation vice president; Crystal Walters, Reggae Girlz team manager; and Shaneika Ricketts, track and field athlete.
CEO of Yardie Sports, Dwayne Richards, hailed the event as a success.
“The fourth Woman in Sport conference was a great success. We had some great presentations, starting with our first presenter, Karen Anderson.
Cydonie Mothersille also did a great job as well and we really appreciated what the ladies brought to the table.
“It will certainly inspire the next generation and it makes the effort to put on the conference worthwhile,” he said.
Special awards also went to Lorna Bell for her contribution to the Special Olympics movement and Carol Cuffy for her contribution to swimming.