“Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.” –AJ McCord, KOIN-TV Sports Anchor
What do you get when you bring a group of international women together with one common objective?
Last month, WorldOregon became part of the solution towards gender equity when the organization hosted female sports journalists from 47 different countries in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and Meridian International Center. The journalists were visiting as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program with a specific aim to share their experiences, explore different approaches to overcoming sexism in sports journalism, and network with industry leaders. With a pen and pad of paper in hand, the female sports journalists set out to explore best practices here in the U.S.
As a community-based organization, WorldOregon has many contacts throughout the state. While visiting Portland, WorldOregon introduced the journalists to Coach Mike Parsons and Media Relations Director Katie Simons of the celebrated Portland Thorns FC women’s professional soccer team and tour Providence Park stadium. They also had the opportunity to meet with Coach Michelle French and watch a Portland Pilots women’s college soccer game at the University of Portland. Both experiences gave the journalists an opportunity to engage with coaches directly and learn how gender equity is being put into practice on the field. Read the “full story” from University of Portland’s Beacon here.
Oregon is also home to some incredible sports brands. Columbia Sportswear was eager to engage with the international journalists, show them their innovation lab, and discuss the HERProject, a program, of which Columbia is a core partner, that works to empower women working in global supply chains. Engaging with the internationally recognized sports brand had a strong impact on the journalists as they were able to explore how the market responds to the growing needs of women in sports.
A trip to Oregon would not be incomplete without stopping by the University of Oregon which is preparing to host the upcoming 2020 Olympic Track and Field Trials and the World Athletics Championships in 2021. Rajes Paul, a sports journalist from Malaysia, was impressed by historic Hayward Field, currently undergoing renovations.
“Our universities [in Malaysia] are happy to just run some sports programs, unlike in the United States where they are thinking big and playing an effective role in promoting a healthy lifestyle and creating world-class stars.
Imagine if every school, every university, and every education center in Malaysia plays its part—we could be as rich in sports tradition and sporting excellence as the U.S.”
On the university campus the journalists also participated in a session focused on adaptive sports, the Special Olympics, and the Paralympics, organized by Mobility International USA. Understanding the intersectional nature of women in sports gave a larger understanding for what it means to be inclusive and representational.
The visiting journalists were also joined by some U.S. counterparts - including local sports journalists AJ McCord from KOIN-TV (Portland’s CBS affiliate) and Jamie Goldberg from The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. In a panel discussion (moderated by Piper Criscola, Manager for PR and Community Engagement with the Portland Winterhawks junior ice hockey team), the women were able to connect through their shared experiences in English despite their various nationalities and languages. The conversations that took place were invaluable. McCord summed up the experience on the KOIN-TV newscast that evening:
“What we get to cover here in Portland is amazing and I feel so honored to do it, but some of these women are from countries where they have to be very careful what they say, or they are the first woman to ever be on television, or ever tell a sports story…These women are amazing.”
Being a female sports journalist in a historically male-dominated space can be challenging. It is hard to be taken seriously, gain access to players, and deal with many levels of discrimination. But where there is a will there is a way, and exchanges like these provide an opportunity for professional growth and international connections.
It’s clear that when it comes to women in sports journalism, Oregon is a leader with an eye to the future.