Context, Please

July 2, 2008 – 3:20 pm by Hickey


Jenni Carlson is back at it. No, not angering Mike Gundy to the point of hilarity (and a contract extension).

She is, however, making noise with claims of sexism without proper context.

The last time this happened — at least that I was paying attention — was during the “infamous” incident regarding the Chicago White Sox and some blow-up dolls who made their way into the clubhouse.

That’s when Jenni opined that the presence of the blow-up dolls made it uncomfortable for any female reporter in the clubhouse who was just trying to do her job. Which is a fair enough sentiment — had there actually been any women in the clubhouse. But there were none, so she was crying over milk that hadn’t even been spilled.

Now, the President for the Association for Women in Sports Media is up in arms over the hiring practices of the business after a study by the Associated Press Sports Editors showed that very few women are working in sports departments, thus earning them a grade of “F” for hiring practices.

“It’s difficult to stomach, and yet, considering the percentage of women that the study determined are in sports departments, the poor grade is absolutely justified,” Carlson told Editor & Publisher. “Sports departments need to be held accountable for the diversity of their staffs, and right now, the lack of gender diversity by in large is appalling.”

To pull the numbers verbatim from the same story, in case you were too lazy to click on the link: 94% of sports editors are male, as are 90% of assistant sports editors, and 94% of columnists. Sports copy editors are also overwhelmingly male, but by a somewhat smaller percentage, 84%.

Certainly, if I was a woman, I would be less than thrilled by these numbers. But it’s important to remember that numbers without context are quite meaningless. For example:

30. 73. 96. 14. 29.

See? You can turn those numbers into anything you want, from the starting lineup of the Edmonton Oilers to the ages of the next five people you date.

So the real question shouldn’t be “Why aren’t women getting better jobs in sports journalism?”, but “How many women are applying for these jobs, and what is the ratio of applicants to job landers?” (I couldn’t think of a better term than job lander, sorry).

If 75% of women who actually apply for these jobs are getting them, I’d say things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem. And if only 15% of women who apply for the jobs are getting them, then perhaps there is a problem. But those are the real numbers that have to be looked at if you’re holding accountability. From my experience in the business, I can assure you that people are bending over backwards to make sure they have women in prominent positions on their staff. (Another sentence that can read very differently if taken out of context).

Unfortunately, it is studies like this that force people to hire women who may be underqualified for their positions in order to make the numbers look better. Then when another hiring comes along, they might be hesitant to add another female to the staff since the first one sucked so much to create the illusion of “Oh, this one will be just as bad.”

As Keith Hernandez once said, “Don’t get me wrong, I love the ladies.” (Or something to that effect). I’m even enlightened enough to think they should be in the press box and locker room just the same as the rest of us mopes. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of someone who is better qualified and just happens to possess male genitalia. (You know I’m serious about this subject when I passed up a good opportunity to use any number of humorous penis synonyms).

If you want better numbers, encourage more girls headed to college that they can get into this wonderful, cough, industry. Saturate the market. Just don’t come bitching about numbers without giving them some meaning.

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  1. 2 Responses to “Context, Please”

  2. “I can assure you that people are bending over backwards to make sure they have women in prominent positions on their staff.”

    HAHAHAHAHA, that is the Double Entendre Line of the Year.

    By cousin charlie on Jul 2, 2008

  3. I’ll double your entendre

    By Jersey on Jul 3, 2008

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