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Female leadership in sports journalism: a voice for change

SIGA’s sports integrity journal shares Sarah Castro Lizarazo’s perceptions on female leadership in the world of sports and sports journalism.

SIGA’s sports integrity journal shares Sarah Castro Lizarazo’s perceptions on female leadership in the world of sports, and sports journalism, in a brilliantly-written article.

SIGA, the world’s number one Sports Integrity Global Alliance, has released their second Journal edition today, and we can’t get enough of Sarah Castro Lizarazo’s voice for change

Castro, Director of Diario AS Colombia & Deportes Caracol Radio, enlightens us with an exquisite article surrounding the power of words, and the role of female leadership in sports journalism. Her views on women’s representation in sports, and society’s transformation accordingly, is simply a huge contribution to leaders, as well as readers. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Female leadership in sports journalism: a voice for change

by : Sarah Castro Lizarazo

There are still times when I enter a set and there are 30 men, I am the only woman and I think: ‘This is so out of step with what's going on in society. How is it possible for us to connect with the audience like this?”

Those are the words of the Australian actress Cate Blanchett in an interview with the newspaper El País, which describes a scene that has been repeated in many industries over time, not only in the media or in sport.

It’s an imbalance sustained by structures that are imposed by a society dominated and narrated by men, a society in which the voice of women is limited to private settings or specific roles, fundamentally linked to care-giving tasks. A society with a partial view of reality that presents an incomplete portrayal of the human experience.

Historically, some years ago, the world began to change thanks to the social and political struggles of women who put their rights at the forefront of efforts to instigate positive change and, with this, society began to change the narrative around gender. Today, we are going through a historic moment. Not only are women becoming more prominent in many aspects of life but are actively feminizing others. Expressing our experiences, needs, and vision of culture, politics, and economics.

This means that many women today not only do the work that was previously assigned to men, but we give it a different perspective. The way in which we lead and express ourselves reflects our multidimensional character, our history, and the legacy we want to leave behind. Processes in which we, as women, have found our voices and seek to help other women to find theirs too.

But what does this have to do with contemporary journalism and the sports industry?

Without a doubt, we are facing a moment in time where we are constantly questioning the relevance journalism continues to have inside the ecosystem where social platforms and the new forms of consuming information challenge its role in society. Despite all the obstacles that journalism and media companies face, it is impossible to deny that the audience is still interested in searching for, reading, and listening to relevant stories about sports and everything that surrounds the industry.

"Journalism needs to embrace its social responsibility"

The new dynamics of news consumption, like the relationship between our sources and our audience, have evolved. But because of that, in this new ecosystem, journalism needs to remember and embrace its social responsibility. The responsibility to inform and add value to the conversation occurring within the world of sports. But it goes beyond the industry, because at the end of the day, sports amplify the transformation that society is undergoing. Our audience is not just looking for commentary on what is happening on the field, but they are also expecting journalism that is able to write the history of our time through sport.

Journalism continues to matter because we are living in historic times that need good reporters, producers, editors … who understand that unprecedented moments require more than just best practices and objectivity. We need journalism that can explain and present the new social context that understands and contextualizes themes such as equality, diversity, social and racial justice, and intersectionality – to name a few.

Journalism is still the place where society finds context, different voices, narratives, and stories that help us understand the world around us. Information is power – the power to decide and act accordingly.

Historically journalism has had the challenge of informing, even if it means questioning power. It is true that the way power manifests itself and the way it relates to journalism has changed. But our duty will always be attached to good practices, promoting good governance, and holding those in power accountable.

Journalism will change in response to this new reality where new values and issues have gained relevance. Issues like these I already mentioned though, to be honest, can never be discussed or brought up too much. At the same time, we must take advantage of the new social and technological platforms and opportunities to tell stories. To share these in ways that are objective and responsible whilst also understanding that the thing people prioritize now, more than ever, is their time. And those people that give us their valuable time must feel compelled, emotionally connected, and touched from the first moment they engage with our content to the last.

The challenge for the media and the sports industry is for all of us involved to take on the responsibility of connecting with audiences, fans, or clients through content that reflects the reality of what is happening on the streets, in the schools, and in the homes around the world. This is only possible if there is real analysis and change in organizations: it is not only up to us to give women more space in the news, but also to allow more and more women to reach positions of power in companies.

Weeks ago, the United States women's national football team (USWNT) reached a historic agreement with U.S. Soccer over equal pay. Megan Rapinoe highlighted the impact of this decision not only for this group of players but for generations to come. “This is a huge win for us. As always, there's really no justice going backwards. The only justice now is ensuring that this never happens again and this lawsuit is a massive step forward."

We are talking about representation. After the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019, the IDB published a report that showed that the countries with the greatest presence in these tournaments coincide with those with the best levels of gender equality, according to the ranking of the World Economic Forum. That is, greater access to education, economic opportunities, health, and political empowerment. Norway and Sweden are the best examples of this.

Although much remains to be done, the structures that historically belittled women are being reformed. Our experiences and needs have moved to the center in terms of both decision and market. Women's bodies have ceased to be objects and have become vehicles of change in sports, and in offices, where policies that will impact communities at various levels are decided. Simone Biles, for example, set the conversation about mental health at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

As journalists we need to be conscious that at this moment in time, media outlets are not the only ones setting the agenda, society and its evolution are also doing it for us.