Women need to be encouraged to train as sports journalists to address the current gender imbalance, a report by the women in sport advisory committee has said.
The final report of the government’s advisory body, published on the 24 March, outlines the progress made in women’s involvement in sport over the past 18 months. The document identifies areas that have improved or need more work, and provides recommendations for further success, to ensure momentum is not lost.
Progress made includes the rise in media coverage of women’s sport, greater recognition of women’s sporting achievements, an increase in commercial investment in women's sport, and more women in sports leadership positions helping to shape sport in this country.
As part of the recommendations, the committee advises training providers to encourage women onto their sports courses. Figures supplied by the NCTJ showed that while 54 per cent of journalism students are women, just 11 per cent of sports journalism students are women.
The report says: “We would like training providers that offer sports journalism to be more proactive about recruiting women onto their courses, and the overall proportion of women studying sports journalism to be at least 25 per cent by the end of the next Parliament.”
The report also made recommendations to increase coverage of women’s sport in journalism. The committee wanted discussions to continue with OPTA and Press Association to ensure women’s sport is included in the fixtures calendar sent to journalists. Another suggestion was the creation of a Women’s Sport Week in June, with broadcasters championing women’s sport.
The women in sport advisory committee is chaired by minister for sport Helen Grant MP and includes NCTJ accreditation board member and Sky Sports News executive editor Andy Cairns.
Andy said: “Sports journalism is changing and we want vibrant and diverse newsrooms that are changing with it. Women are making their mark in sport and the way sport is reported but the report shows there is more work to do in encouraging women to pursue sports journalism.
“The NCTJ is already focusing on diversity initiatives as part of the accreditation process and I hope the report’s recommendations will encourage accredited journalism training providers to think about how they can recruit more women onto their sports courses.”
Helen said: “This report highlights how far we’ve come, yet also identifies key areas which need further improvement.
"We’re seeing progress in terms of female representation on sports boards and women being celebrated for their sporting achievements but I want to see more being done to narrow the investment gap between men and women’s sport.
“I want to see women's participation rates soaring. And I want to see more coverage of women’s sport – not just in broadcast, but print media too. The recommendations of this board are promising and I am sure with further commitment to this area from stakeholders across sport we can keep up the momentum we have built.”
The full report can be viewed here.