In light of recent events, it seems as though time travel has finally been achieved. We have managed to travel back to the 1970s when Melissa Ludtke, a Sports Illustrated reporter, was prevented from interviewing players after the 1977 World Series because she was a woman. Graham Watson of Yahoo Sports, Joey Chandler of Tuscaloosa News and Tulsa World’s Katie McInerney were all denied access to the Jacksonville Jaguars locker room by an usher following a road game against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 4. I am outraged by this most recent instance of discrimination encountered by these women after the game. Their encounter reinforces my belief that gender stereotypes must continue to be addressed in the field of journalism, especially in sports coverage.

Although progress has been made over past decades in how women are treated, especially in the journalism field, there is still more that needs to be done. One recent accomplishment was the Arizona Cardinals’ decision to hire Jen Welter, the NFL’s first female coach as an intern during training camp. However, despite the recent growth shown by the NFL, the news room needs more time to catch up. According to The Huffington Post, Media Matters for America conducted a study in 2013 that found that “women make up only 38 percent of newsroom staff — a figure that has remained the same for the past 14 years.”

Not much has changed in the last two years since the study was conducted. In a study conducted this year, USA Today also found that despite women comprising over two-thirds of journalism majors, they are still “credited with less than 40 percent of bylines and anchor jobs.” These numbers astound me and make me wonder how after decades, women still have such a strong discrepancy. I believe the best way that we can bridge this inconsistency is by acknowledging that there is a point in the journalism field where female reporters are no longer considered publishable writers by their superiors. Once that acknowledgment is made by everyone, journalists included, there should be less focus on who the best journalists should be, and who the best ones actually are.

There also needs to be more attention given to stereotypes surrounding women and sports. Whether people say that women are only interested in sports because they want to ogle at men or that men are more successful at reporting games because they are more “athletically inclined,” we need to tear down these stereotypes and allow people to prove themselves before their abilities are judged. These assumptions are insulting and do not define a person’s ability to report.

Women should not have to keep fighting for the right to be published and taken seriously as reporters. The refusal to let Watson, Chandler and McInerney into the men’s locker room should never have happened, since on Sept. 25, 1978, a federal judge in New York ruled that banning female reporters from locker rooms infringed upon the Equal Protection Clause of the United States’ 14th Amendment. Prior to that ruling, Ludtke was unable to do her job, but her lawsuit in 1978 helped fight back against sexism in the sports world. Afterwards, she would go on to have a “distinguished career in journalism,” according to the Huffington Post, working at such news outlets like CBS News and the LA Times.

Another focal point when looking at the Jaguars-Colts postgame incident should be how the usher allegedly responded to the women when they tried to enter the locker room. In addition to not knowing if they could enter, Watson tweeted that the usher said, “You know how guys are” as a reason for why they were not granted access. The “locker room mentality” and continued acceptance of men acting inappropriately toward women must stop. I could understand if the usher had asked them to wait for the men to shower and make sure they were presentable first. However, the usher appeared to be ill-informed about the federal law, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, and that is something he needs to be held responsible for. Any other job requires employees to know the guidelines and understand what is or is not acceptable conduct. The usher should not be treated any differently and all employers must guarantee when hiring their workers that there is a zero tolerance for discrimination.

Although as a society, we are less complacent when faced with occurrences of sexism today, we are still watching them unfold. When speaking out about the incident on her Twitter account, Chandler tweeted, “When getting ready to enter Jags locker room with other APSE female fellows, old man tried to deny us entry. It’s still 2015, right?” There has hardly been traction with the incident because I am sure many people view it as a simple misunderstanding that anyone could have, but as a female and a journalist myself, I find this discouraging. These stories must be told in an effort to continue to build upon the progress that has slowly been made over the past 37 years.

Journalism is a field that was historically dominated by men. It is time to make certain that qualified women are not prevented from doing their jobs just because they are women.

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-- Online Editor-in-Chief Emeritus-- Digital Journalism

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