Research Abstract on the Perception of Female Sport Figures

Obstacles, Stereotypes and Discrimination Female Sport Professionals Have Faced in Their Profession

Tess Hyre, Shepherd University

Monica Larson, Shepherd University

Steve Chen, Morehead State University


The new television series, “Pitch” of Fox (2016) depicts a remarkable fictional yet dramatic, story about the first African-American female pitcher, Ginny Baker, playing for the Major League Baseball. Although having a female athlete playing in one of the major four professional sports in United States is a celebratory event, the TV series clearly illustrated how Ginny’s historical-breaking achievement can be tainted by media biases and social prejudices. Those general notions clearly illustrate that female athletes cannot be capable or talented enough to compete with their male counterparts. Sports are perceived as activities, a profession, and a cultural phenomenon that is dominated, controlled, and operated by men. The enactment of Title IX in 1972 literally helps break many participating barriers that women faced; however, it does not necessarily guarantee or promote the recognition of women’s athletic ability, achievement, and sport competency from public’s and media’s view (Jacobs & Schain, 2009).

Gender Biases of Media Representation and Discriminations in Work Settings

Since 1999, the U.S. Women’s Soccer team have been a perennial power in that sport and won numerous championships in major international events (Jacobs & Schain, 2009). Their excellent achievement still receives limited media attention and coverage as compared to any other men’s major sports (Harwell, 2014; Lapiano, 2008). Both low revenues coming from broadcasting rights and popularity of women’s sports can be attributed to the lack of women’s sport coverage. Without adequate TV coverage and broadcasting incomes, it is impossible to narrow the salary gap between the men and female athletes.

There are numerous challenges and obstacles that female sport professionals (such as sport journalists and sportscasters) have encountered in their works. Examples of those problem may include: receiving unequal payment for their same amount of effort and work, no locker room access for conducting interviews, getting no respect from general public and male peers for their professional skills and knowledge (Arnold, Chen, & Hey, 2015; Carlson, 2010, Rand, 2008; Women’s Sports Foundation, 2015). In addition, sport media’s representations of female athletes and journalists are also filled with stereotypes and biases. Although the growth of female sport journalists has risen by 21.4%, females are still severely underrepresented in the industry, with nearly 10% of total sport journalists (Women’s Media Center, 2014). Female athletes have either been criticized as either as too masculine or not athletic enough (Ezzell, 2009). Media has often spent a great amount of coverage on female athletes’ and professionals’ appearance and outfits, instead of focusing on substances related to sport performance.

Purpose of the Study

Female sport professionals (athletes, coaches, and journalists) are often trivialized when it comes to earning respect, pay equality, and recognition for their hard work in sport fields. This study attempts to open readers’ horizon by examining social stereotypes, discrimination and misconceptions that are unfavorably faced by the female sport professionals (journalists). Hopefully, the findings of the study could provide more insight to help educate the public and eliminate prejudice issues and problems.


The participants will include over 100 young college students of a private university in the Appalachian Region. Reports have shown that over 40% of sport viewers and consumers have college level of education (Jones, 2015). This group of students were particularly chosen due to a few assumptions. They are more likely to view sport programs being remotely close to the Washington Metropolitan Area, have a broader interest and knowledge of sports, and are most likely to attend campus-sporting events. They will be voluntarily invited to complete an online survey (via after receiving a direct link from emails. Participants were solicited from many public places on campus such as hallways, computer labs, library, cafeterias, and lounge of the student union. The data collection process began from early October 2016 and end in early December 2016. The purpose of the study and their right for participation will be addressed in an informed consent letter.

The self-created survey contains a total of 27 items covering four specific areas (constructs): (1) perceptions concerning female reporters’ performance, recognition of accomplishment, media image, and social stereotypes associated with the female reporters; (2) perceptions concerning the female sport journalists’ career development, unfair treatments, perceived competencies, and working environment; (3) perceptions concerning sport reporters’ media image and social stereotypes associated with female reporters; and (4) demographic information. The 27 constructed statements covering the contents of the first two areas will be constructed based on the concepts and findings of numerous past studies (Arnold et al., 2015; Chen, Phillips, Rayburn, 2015; Clifton, 2012; Jacobs & Schain, 2009; Senne, 2016; Women’s Sports Foundation, 2015). The participants will express their agreement with the constructed statements using the 5- point Likert scale rating (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree).

Expected Outcomes and Discussion

It is estimated that the respondents of this study sample may have more females than males, due to the fact that the overall female student population is greater. Findings of participants’ perceived understanding of coverage time and social stereotypes related to female sports, strategies and image of media representation, and gender-related biases and issues related to the profession of sport journalism will be presented and discussed. The authors hypothesize that elite females in the sport industry with great accomplishments will be under-appreciated. Participants’ interest for viewing female sports will still be at a low level. Participants will continue to identify issues related to sexism within the media representation and devaluation of female journalists’ and sportscasters’ professional competencies. Participants’ perceptions on various constructs may be significantly different due to their gender difference as well.

Authors will address the limitations of the study by raising the regional perspective on the issues that is offered by the participants. Thus, generalization of the findings from this unique purposefully selected group should be cautious. Future research direction for inviting more female professionals (including coaches, athletic administrators, and sport journalists) to offer their opinions on the issues should be applied and encouraged.

Selected References

Arnold, T., Chen, S., & Hey, W. (2015). The rise of women sportscasters: A struggle from sideline to centerfield. Missouri Journal of Health, Physical education, Recreation and Dance, 25, 36-43.

Carlson, J. (2010). Retrieved from

Clifton, A. (2012) “The History Of Women Sportscasters & Their Struggle For Equality”. The University of Toledo Digital Repository. Retrieved from dissertations

Ezzell, M. B. (2009). “’Barbie dolls’ on the pitch: Identity work, defensive othering, and inequality in women’s rugby”. Social Problems, 56(1), 111-131. doi:10.1525/sp.2009.56.1.111

Jacobs, P., & Schain, L. (2009). Professional women: The continuing struggle for acceptance and equality. Journal of Academic and Business Ethics, 1, 98-111.

Jones, J. M. (2015). As industry grows, percentage of U.S. sports fans steady. Retrieved from fans-steady.aspx

Lopiano, D. A. (2008). Retrieved from


Rand, M. (2008). Erin Andrews: “my overall reaction is that it is really sad”. Retrieved from


Rayburn, B., Chen, S., Phillips, C. (2015). “Female College Athletes’ Perceptions on Gender Stereotypes and Discrimination in Collegiate Athletics”. International Journal of Business and Social Science. Retrieved from ol_6_No_5_May_2015/4.pdf


Senne, J. (2016). “Examination of Gender Equity and Female Participation in Sport”. The Sport Journal. Retrieved from of-gender-equity-and-female-participation-in-sport/

Women’s Media Center (2014). “The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014” Women’s Media Center. Retrieved from

Women’s Sports Foundation. (2015). “Pay Inequality in Athletics”. Women’s Sports Foundation. Retrieved from reports/equity-issues/pay-inequity


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