Lisa Ingarfield discusses with Fox Sports Reporter Laura Okmin how women are marginalized in sports media both in terms of opportunity and their treatment
Talking Point is Presented by Dr. Lisa Ingarfield
Podcast length:62′ 54″
Lisa Ingarfield continues to delve deeply into some of the systemic barriers facing women in sport and women’s sport in general, to examine some of the deep seated and persistent problems facing women, and to think about how we can change that culture. On this episode Lisa’s guest is experienced NFL sideline reporter, currently with Fox Sports, Laura Okmin who shares her first hand experiences of how women are marginalized in sports media both in terms of opportunity and their treatment. Laura is also the founder of GALvanize – an organization and resource which offers tools for women to succeed in front of and behind the camera in sport.
[00:00:00] Happy New Year everyone and welcome to this month’s episode of Talking Point where we delve deeply into some of the systemic barriers facing women in sport and women’s sport in general. I’m your host Lisa Ingarfield and I want to take the conversation about women in sport and women’s sport to the next level. Let’s really dig into some of the deep seated and persistent problems facing women and think about how we can change that culture. Last month In our Talking Point episode we had the pleasure of talking with Nancy Hogshead Makar from Champion Women. She discussed the pervasive problem of sexual abuse in sport. We talked about the need to tackle this issue from a system level and not just an individual problem. Doing this will allow us to change the culture of acceptance to one of zero tolerance. Today we’re going to continue the conversation with Laura Okmin NFL and sports broadcaster and founder of Galvanize. In today’s episode is going to be on how women are marginalized in sports media both in terms of opportunity and their treatment. For over two decades Laura has covered the biggest names on the biggest stages including over 10 Super Bowls to Olympics multiple NBA Finals World Series and All-Star Games. But what Laura is most known for and most proud of is the connection she has cultivated over 20 years of building relationships not sources. Trust has been the foundation of her interviews. Her programs and her own production company Laura joined Fox Sports Network in 2002 as a host anchor and reporter and has held numerous jobs in the Fox family ever since.
[00:01:39] She’s currently a sideline reporter for the NFL on Fox as well as a feature reporter for the NFL on Fox pregame show.
[00:01:47] Along with hosting FOX Sports Dotcom’s coverage of the previous two Olympics traveling to the 2012 Summer Games in London and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Laura has hosted three national FSN shows while serving as a teacher and sideline reporter for Orange and Fiesta Bowl games. Her other passion is training and mentoring young women entering the sports broadcasting field by putting on seminars around the country with her company galvanize galvanises mission is to help create build and support a network for the next generation of amazing women through a weekend boot camps workshops speaking at universities high schools and per coaching galvanized teaches women the tools they need to succeed in the sports world while turning the so-called competition into allies. Because girls compete and women in power.
Well welcome Laura to Talking Point we’re very excited to have you. Thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:00:06] Thank you so much for having me Lisa. Appreciate it.
[00:00:09] So I’m really excited to learn about your journey and your trajectory as a sports broadcaster. And I know that you’ve been working in the field for over 20 years maybe 25 years and at least for the last ten or so years you’ve been primarily connected. But it sounds like you’ve also been doing a lot more work recently commentating for women’s sports which is exciting then perhaps we can talk about that a little bit later on in the show. I wanted to begin by hearing your perspective about how you think things have changed for women in sport broadcasting industry over the time that you’ve been involved from the very beginning when you first started out as a newbie all the way to now. I imagine that you’ve seen a lot of things shift and ebb and flow.
[00:00:57] Yes. And I love that you said my journey and my trajectory because it’s funny where I was thinking as you said it my journey my trajectory are changing right now. You know even having been in the business for 25 years I find myself shifting and changing and outlook.
[00:01:13] Big word of that is a big dog lover.
[00:01:20] So it’s so interesting to me having this shift in my career in my life and at the same time watching this this shift right now with women in sport so I would say when I started 25 years ago and in the end I used to be so embarrassed to say that are almost ashamed to say how long I’ve been in this business because of women because usually women in this business you don’t get that long shelf life. So I never wanted to say how long that I’d been in this because I was always very aware isn’t a business that women age. And now I’m so proud of it. You know when somebody does 20 years I’ll say give me 25 because I’ve because I’ve done it. And so even that shift and what I would tell you is when I started I was a very young reporter. And from Chicago and my first job was Montgomery Alabama. So it was about as deep south today as I had ever been. And I was getting my first Abdoo doing news during the week in sports on the weekend and there had there was no women and Alabama sports and especially Montgomery Alabama.
[00:02:31] And I admit I was very naive about it because growing up in Chicago and in the Midwest of the United States it wasn’t a jet Anders thing. On Sundays we watch Bears or Packers or we cheer the White Sox or the Cubs. It was gender specific. We love sports and I think I was a little bit naive to what was ahead. And so what I can tell you is I got to Montgomery and I was doing my first live shot at a high school football game which was a huge huge deal those Friday night football games in the south and I was really excited. It was you know I was probably 22 years old and at that moment I thought I made it. You know I hadn’t worked so hard to get here I’m about to do my first live shot at a football game. And I’m nervous and I’m excited and I’m having all those you know awesome butterflies and all of a sudden the coach who I was about to interview was walking up towards me and he was holding a basketball in the football.
[00:03:30] And I just kind of you know you know quizzically looked and as he walked up he said I just wanted you to know the difference a little girl between a football and a basketball pole and a basketball round in a football is oblong and my stomach did what your reaction was you know that was not my stomach felt and it shaped me as a young reporter because all of a sudden I realized everybody was going to this going you know what you’re talking about or do no talking about so suddenly how my career started was. Every question I asked was longer than the answer that was given because I had to prove myself so much. So it’s part of that was very much part of the world and knowing people felt like that and part of it was probably my baggage. Now taking that coach’s comment on myself and going well I better know that every conversation I have or interview I better be able to make sure everybody knows I know the difference between not obviously a basketball the football but a 3 4 and 4 3 defense or I better I better I better explain to them before I ask them about it I better explain how how knowledgeable I am. So what I would say is what shifted so much in my world and I see now. I don’t think that so much on women shoulders anymore. I think if you are in sports you hopefully hopefully go in feeling like you know what you’re talking about. If I’m if I’m holding microphone or if I’m covering sports you know behind the behind the scenes I hope that’s not as much bread as it was back then. But what hasn’t changed. Twenty five years ago to now and I would say the biggest thing Lisa is the people atop the top.
[00:05:17] There’s more women reporters there’s more women’s sideline reporters but are there more women executives other more who are managing editors and producers and that’s where I don’t see the shift that I wish and the only way this business is going to change for women is when women are making decisions who we hire how we cover and who we cover and that to me is my most disappointing my most disappointing thing in this business. I haven’t seen that move.
[00:05:48] Yeah I mean I’m nodding away here you’re talking. I think that’s so huge that’s beyond your industry. I think that’s true across many industries right. The culture will only shift when there are more women employed in leadership levels who are making decisions. Why do you think that is. I mean why do you think then that you’ve seen these other shit that you haven’t seen that happen in the highest levels at the CEOs at the manager level.
[00:06:16] Because there aren’t enough women CEOs a management level. I mean that really is it’s I think I remember always hearing this and not really knowing if I believed it or not the older I get the more I believe it. And what you said in sports and every industry you tend to hear who you. Who looks like you know what. Even if you’re not thinking about it that way but who you relate to and who in all of a sudden you’re having an interview and the interview feels more like a conversation and you see things the same way you have the same background. And I feel like that tends to make those those executive rooms those people look like and I just know that in doing this all you know in 25 years and working at a lot of places and you know a few networks and a lot of a lot of entities I’ve yet to have that female leader. You know I’ve had some ahead of me who were my superiors but there’s been nobody that I’ve that I’ve had that’s been at that executive level and in sports we are really really slow to that.
[00:07:19] And it’s just it’s so tough because I don’t think it will change until we have women and that’s even a more layered statement because sometimes you have women who aren’t necessarily the women who empower other women. So there’s layers to that too but I don’t think it’s going to change until we have women at the top who know not just you need to have more women because it’s good to have more voices but it makes your company that we think differently we act differently. We hire differently we make decisions differently. And that to me is the value with the beauty of having these board rooms of people that don’t look alike. And I just think we haven’t had that yet in sports and many other businesses. But just in my world we haven’t had that yet.
[00:08:08] Yeah. And so I think there’s a there’s a number of things there right. Is this feeling that women don’t belong both women feeling that and then perhaps men believing that women don’t belong. And if men are at the top levels and they’re hiring people who look like them even if they’re all women available to take those spots they’re perhaps systemically discriminated against because of that that piece. And then you have kind of this cultural narrative around men and sport and how it’s really sport is a men’s realm it’s a place for men. And I’m just I’m just being pulled to mind the Cam Newton comment which I know that you had tweeted about where he had articulated that it was funny to hear a woman say something about routes and so that then just kind of compounds and feeds into this larger narrative that then affects the pipeline because maybe women and girls don’t choose to go in that direction because they don’t see that there’s a point and then there’s a large pool of people to be hired that men hire people who look like them. So I feel like it’s really complex.
[00:09:12] Yes I agree. And that was the same one Cameron said that because I have always been a fan of Camsan and have got to know him. I’ve gotten to know him well since he’s been since he’s been in the NFL. And what I would tell you is Cam’s not a fan of reporters. I don’t care what gender they are. You know and what race. You know what they look like he’s had a complicated relationship with reporters since he since college when he had some issues. And I know that I spent a year building that relationship with cam and literally saying to him I had a I had a season where I think five or six of eight games without exaggeration were Panthers games. And so I made a point in training camp to say to camp before the season how many people do you trust in the business media wise and he was real quick to say nobody haven’t had a good relationship since college. Don’t trust him don’t know him don’t want to. And I said I want to work on that. I want to I want to be that person you trust. And he said how do you how do you how do you think we’d go about that.
[00:10:16] Tell me you know how you would you would suggest that and I said from this moment to you when I determine we’re going off the record everything you say to me every time I see you this is for our building of the relationship. I will not go public with this. Trust me. And if you want to say anything you want if it goes anywhere you know it’s me and I’m going to do the same with you as you’re telling me things and then talking to your coaches and teammates. We built this great relationship. So that’s what disappointed me about the comment so much because I didn’t expect that from Cam I know what I know you know Cam is raised by a strong woman. I know his mother you know got God on him about that. And so I was so disappointed because that to me of all the issues women in sports face these days that that’s not it. Like I said in the beginning I don’t feel like I walk into a room and people are like where does this girl know. I thought we were past that. So there’s so many things that young women are dealing with right now that I didn’t have to deal with and I’m very thankful I didn’t. But that was one I kind of check the box off to go and we’re good here. You know that again if you got the job we’re gonna assume you know what you’re talking Yeah and Bush camps comment did was open that door again. And that disappointed me. So I so that’s the hardest part for me.
[00:11:41] When you’re talking about that is it. With the going back to going back to the bosses going back to Hooft who’s hiring. If we’re getting back to now what we’ve faced you know 20 years ago which is do I want a woman in here because. Do I know she knows what she’s talking about. That really breaks my heart. And right now with the BE2 movement there’s wonderful things about that amazing things and there’s some tough things we’re going to have to you know we’re going to have to figure out because my fear is now what happens in those rooms is do we want a woman in here because you know can I talk to her about this. Can boys still be boys and all that boy network that you talked about that old boy network. Now are they going to start looking at it as well we’ve got to be extra careful because now this movement can we have a woman here. And be able to act like ourselves. That’s what worries me right now. So that will lead to less hiring of women.
[00:12:43] That’s so fascinating and so also very complex right because it certainly crossed my mind but I find the argument that men have frequently posited that. Now I just don’t know what sexual harassment what is is a complete cop out because you know the line is right and it’s really about respectful behavior to the women in your life.
[00:13:07] And you know what that looks like.
[00:13:09] And so you’re being held accountable individually and kind of on mass for this. And so it’s really it’s troubling to have a lot of feelings about it that I’m probably not articulate well in this conversation. But I think what you’re identifying is real but it again just puts that responsibility back on the backs of women. Right. And keeps one silo.
[00:13:32] And that is the problem is it also. I know. Go ahead. No you go ahead. So I think that this is what happens with the great conversation when you’re passionate isn’t it. HUGO. HUGO I got to say but I think that right now is the tricky part for me of a company for young women in sports. And and we spend more time on these kind of issues because what I always call it what I always say to them is you need to define your life. You need to know what. OK. And in a business and in a world in sports and again I talk my world because I know that this is certainly not just sports but there’s no such thing as black and white. It’s all gray and you’ve got to figure that out. Are you OK we’re going to lunch or dinner with a player a coach a boss. Are you ok with someone hugging you. Are you OK with one asking for phone numbers when they ask for yours. I’m very very very thankful that I started in Montgomery Alabama. And it took me a long time to figure out what my line was and your line move.
[00:14:42] And I have I feel in sports one of the good things is what they’ve done is they are more inclusive with young women and more young women are getting opportunities much sooner than my generation did. And part of me champions that and loves that. And the other part of me was the whole reason or the whole genesis of starting galvanize was because watching these women get hired before they were ready and the on camera stuff you know I’ll teach you to be a better reporter on camera that’s easy. The harder stuff is everything that we’re navigating. So what worries me about what you’re saying is it puts it back on our backs and most of these young women who are starting in sports now they don’t have the experience yet the life experience to be able to handle that. And that worries me for them. That’s the that’s what breaks my heart for these young women is I don’t want you to have to learn this the hard way because that’s tough. And we all learn it. But I’m glad I learned it. I’m glad I learned it in a small market versus at a at a network. And that’s what worries me right now is just what’s the definition. And you’re right. And it turned into a lot of conversations for me with my with my male co-workers and I’ve been thrilled to have them. I’m the only woman in a very big crew and so I am getting all the questions.
[00:16:03] But we had one the other day when they said it was a real earnest question you know can I hug a woman at work and that’s kind of been the joke and I hear that punchline a lot or that joke a lot. And I never thought it was funny because that is something that I know you know that that men think about were women thinking about you know when you’re when you’re getting to know someone in a work environment. And I said to them I’m going to be honest. Twenty years ago ten years ago I never would have hugged somebody at work. Because I’m so super aware and hyper aware hyper sensitive back then about making sure what my reputation was so I would’ve never hug someone. Now I’ve been doing this 25 years. My relationships are incredible. My favorite part about my business is the relationships I’ve built of. Of course they hugged these guys they were friends. You know I’ll be friends with them for years after I stopped doing this. So I have no problem with that. And so they’re used to that with me of me always giving them a call or when we walk into a meeting or hug someone that I relationship with which again I would have never done that before. But when I tell them is don’t don’t hugs that if you’re worried about it just don’t you guys. But you know you know it’s me. You know your friendship with me so of course you can’t. It’s not that hard. And it goes back to what you were saying Lisa. It’s just it’s the men who are nervous the men who can’t sleep at night.
[00:17:26] The men who are having trouble figuring this out are the ones who should it’s the ones who you have. I don’t care who you are you know. You know when you’ve crossed a line you know that you know what your position regarding a woman. So the the men who are going I don’t know and you know of trying to figure this out are usually the ones I talked to like your god you’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s those long you know that don’t worry about this. It’s the ones who the ones who cross it know they’re crossing it. I just believe that firmly. Do you.
[00:18:03] Yeah. No I do. I think that there was this really great piece that I read and I forget the online publication but it talked about the myth of the male bumbler and this idea that we write people off as just young men if we write men off as being stupid or they just don’t get it or oh we’ll just you know they’re just men can’t parent their children or men call them. You know that sort of behavior and what that does is it creates a climate where men can get away with doing a lot of stuff that they absolutely know that they’re doing. Because it’s just this kind of like men aren’t capable. And the point of the article was how can men. So then if we’re saying kind of men aren’t capable of figuring out where the line is around sexual harassment like whether to ask someone to hug them and yet they’re also the CEO of a massive organization.
[00:18:48] You can’t have both if you’re smart enough to be the CEO of an organization you’re smart enough to know where the line is around. Intimate touching with a woman co-worker right. I just had a really great piece that made that point very well.
[00:19:02] I love that and I’m obsessed with that piece. I’ve said that at first I sent that to all my women. You know what I was like reading Mr. Read this and then I was like I got to stop doing that and started sending it to my man you know like me. So you need to see this too. I agree with you. And it’s just to me I think it was in this article that I loved the the measure is would you do this to a male co-worker. And that’s kind of our joke now you know with the men I travel with. You know when that something said I’m like if you will say that to him I’m fine with that. You know just be careful with that. And to me what I like to say is you know would you say to a male co-worker to would you do it or say it when your wife’s around. And that to me like that’s pretty easy. If it would you do it if another another. If your boss was around or your peer you know another. If your if your S.O. was around her president and usually it’s with that male bumblers theory are usually the men who of course they wouldn’t. They do that very privately they do that alone.
[00:20:03] You know that’s that’s not something they’re doing in front of in front of a group and certainly in front of their spouse. So if we have to make this you know just this direction and we have to make a rule book it would be I swear Lisa it would look like we were writing it to a sixth grader or a third grader. It’s real basic Yeah. And I agree with you that that the fear is we’re going to be in charge of that and we just shouldn’t be it should. It should be. Really. They’re such good men out there who knows who they are. And the fact that we’re all sifting the men who don’t is a shame for both for both sexes.
[00:20:40] No absolutely and and I just thinking back to the comment that you made a few minutes ago about how in your earlier your career you would never have hugged someone because of what that implication might have meant for your reputation and how that’s just a different experience probably than a man who was similarly positioned in their career to you.
[00:20:59] One they may or may not have been hugging people right but they probably wouldn’t have thought about the fact that if I hug someone that could be detrimental to my reputation all that could create a narrative around who I am as a person and how men and women you know in our professional lives live you know walk alongside each other but live and experience things so differently.
[00:21:23] One of the things I do I did this this offseason the football offseason and I brought a group of reporters to NFL teams gave me the rookies. So I think one had 23 and one had twenty five. So I brought 23 young women to the Atlanta Falcons and 25 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. And I paired each reporter up with a woman and the first thing I did was as they were they were paired up and I paired them up for certain reasons you know certain things they had in common. And it was it was terrific. But the first thing I did was stood up there in front of the group and had to explain this is not a hook up. This is not you know I don’t want to hear that you guys are texting each other I don’t want to hear anybody sliding into anybody’s DM’s. This is what one of the most valuable and invaluable relationships you will both have as you both are beginning your journeys. If you don’t mess it up but if you mess it up and if you go over the line what I will tell you is then you just become another boy you’re just another girl. And all of a sudden you can’t help each other because the awkwardness begins and why. I learned that was I when I started doing media training and I do that with teams now. I called a player who I had covered for years probably 10 years. And I said to him and it was real hard for me to get in with him. He was one of those guys he called it the bubble.
[00:22:47] You could not get into his bubble. And so I said Challenge Accepted. I’m getting into that bubble and that took me a couple of years to be able to be trusted. And so when I started doing this media training I called them and said Can you give me give me some reasons why I got into the bubble as I’m teaching guys how to reporters how can I how can I say what did I do that you that you allowed me in. And one of the things he said was what I was most proud about with our relationship was you showed me I could have a relationship with a woman and sex wasn’t involved. I didn’t know I could do that. Right. And so that was one of my. I’m still one of my favorite things I tell my young women reporters and I tell my young guys saying to them if if we would have crossed the line then I would have never been able to help him tell his story for over ten years. And I helped him a lot. Tell his story and he helped me a lot. I started a production company and started doing shows and and started meeting players who knew me and trusted me to allow me in a different way. And if we would have crossed that line neither of us would have helped each other. So I say that saying I do think there’s some teaching that needs to be you know going on and that’s not sports that’s boys and girls girls and boys is thrown together and that happens.
[00:24:11] And so I think there’s part of me that goes there needs to be teaching in terms of how you help each other and what happens when you don’t cross that line and how how you can really help each other on their journey. So it is it’s complicated. But again who wouldn’t say that about dating when they were 13 you know or you know or 33 or 43 or 53 it’s complicated. And so I understand that now everybody in a work setting adds another layer to it. But boy I just wish I wish everybody understood the value in having these great relationships and and trusting each other and opening up and not crossing that line.
[00:24:54] And again both ways yeah and I think that there’s an interesting power dynamic that happens that is that is gendered to some extent. Right. When you have a young woman reporter who’s engaging with the NFL or engaging with a famous or a high profile athlete and trying to build a relationship.
[00:25:15] But there is a power dynamic there in terms of how well that interview goes or how well that relationship goes directly speaks to the quality or capacity of the journalist. How did you navigate that throughout your your professional career defining my line.
[00:25:32] You know and again it’s you learn you learn that by making mistakes you know and you just hope your mistakes are a step over not six steps over but you learn that by and again that’s what I always say to my young women. Let’s define your line. Let’s do this conversation right now. We do a lot of that roleplaying. OK so you’ve been you gone up to a player and you said to him I want to build this relationship I want to build this trust with you. How do we do that so you begin this relationship and then if he says to you well then why don’t we go out and have dinner. Why don’t we go out and have lunch you get to know each other or coach says that oared owner says that or general manager says that. Let’s have that conversation now. So you already have played that out in your head. So we do that in a room of 25 women. And our answers are all different and the one thing that we all commit to is there’s no judging because everybody’s everybody’s life is different. So what I would tell you is what I tell these young women I’d rather in the beginning I’d so much rather you went to one extreme. So again you know no lunch no dinner no hug you. All of that to you can. It will change as you get older and more comfortable. So what I would tell you was 20 years ago I would have never done any of those.
[00:26:52] I would have been so sensitive to the fact that my reputation would have been damaged and I would have been ostracized in this business because back then that’s what happened. So I was hypersensitive to that. But now after all these relationships you know if you’re building these relationships and getting to know everyone I absolutely do a lunch or a dinner or because I know these people. So my line has changed. And but but it was by me slowly moving it as I got more confident myself. I’m not going to be put in an uncomfortable situation right now because I will not let myself be. But let me be really clear when I say this. I have been horribly uncomfortable embarrassing agonizing life changing life defining moments before this. So every one of those experiences has got me to this confident place right now. But that took a long time for me to get there. So I’m real careful with my young woman because I can tell them about all my experiences and all my horrible bosses and all the things that I went through and begged them not to do it because I want it. I want to save them so badly. But I also know they have to go through it. So what I try to do is at least give them somebody who’s not judging and go hey you’ve defined your life but if you go over call me don’t be embarrassed to call me. Let’s talk about it because it’s real. It’s hard. Exactly what. You know what you said is. You put your finger on it. People always talk about sexism in sports and I laugh every time they talk about this locker room atmosphere.
[00:28:26] I have had no life defining career defining changing moments in a locker room. It’s pretty easy to navigate that. It really is it’s uncomfortable but it’s it’s awful in the beginning and it still I will tell you the worst place to be in and the least sexy places least sexiest place to be. But it’s in offices it’s in boardrooms. Those are the places that are the hardest to figure out. So every time people talk about sports I’m like it’s not in the locker room that’s really easy. The things we have to deal with are the ones behind the closed door and we keep hearing more and more of those.
[00:29:02] Yeah absolutely. And then next by that piece around power comes back because it’s you know you can define your line. Absolutely. I think teaching young women who are wanting to enter any field it’s important for them to know what’s appropriate and inappropriate behavior. And there is a hard and fast line if someone crosses light that is OK right. That there is hope whether or not it’s illegal. But there’s a pretty bright line and that goes back to earlier conversation. But then there’s that other space that is you know how do you engage with people who have power to you. It’s just hard. Yeah. And that is that’s it.
[00:29:39] I’m sure every one of us and pretty much every one of us who has gone through it there’s been a whole lot. I sit and I wonder because I can look back to my experiences now and feel really bad for that young woman and go oh I wish she would have handled it this way. You know I wish I would have done this. And I don’t know if you ever handled that the right way at that moment because it every time and I don’t care how many times you go through that. Most of us do many.
[00:30:07] It surprises you especially that first time and I know my first really bad one because there’s always you know we can we can all point to you know a whole bunch of ones that were uncomfortable but exactly it might not be a fireable or an illegal offense. They’re just awkward uncomfortable ones that you know make you you know just yeah. But I know when I was hired in Chicago which was a big jump for me as a young reporter and I was young and I’m a Chicago girl so that was a big deal to go home. Looking back I certainly wasn’t ready for it. But I not I was you know I had two years experience so I thought I thought I knew it all. But I can tell you that I had a boss who who knew how desperate I was to come home. My mom had just passed away and I was alone in Chattanooga trying to start a career for myself. And going through a whole lot with my mom died unexpectedly and I was very open about death of saying how badly I want this job. And in a million years I wouldn’t have thought that that would have been a negative. You know that was that was me saying I’m not I’m not trying to come here for a. I want to go home. And what I can tell you is that bit me real quickly you know that all of a sudden he started putting me in situations and would say to me I thought you said that you were appreciative.
[00:31:25] I thought that you said that you owed me so much because I was bringing you home. So why can’t I tell you to turn around and let me check out your skirt. Why can’t I tell you to wear a skirt. And I would go back then I was traveling with with with covering spore covering the bears. So he knew which hotel I was at and started calling me every night on the road. And when I wouldn’t answer I have a boss who then could say why are you answering because when you don’t answer I think maybe you’re going out and you’re playing. Why aren’t you there at 10 o’clock at night when I call you. And so I remember going through all of that and being you know all of 24 years old. And the key to myself Did I ask for this by telling him maybe maybe I’m at fault here maybe he maybe I let him believe that I did owe him something more than a thank you and doing a great job. So it is so that part going back to what you first asked. That hasn’t changed. Nothing in that has changed my view on women still call me. You know I just got a call two nights ago a very similar situation. And in the middle of this climate kind of going are you kidding me that you guys aren’t sort of getting this right now. Careful right now. But so it’s with power. What worries me most is it’s always the most vulnerable. It’s the women who or the young men or the women who can’t handle it who don’t know how to handle it.
[00:32:50] And I think you don’t figure that out until you get older and your battle tested and by then I think very frequently you’re not getting tested as much because men can figure that out that you that you’re not going to put up with that. Does that make sense.
[00:33:05] It does and I think you’ve just highlighted the system that’s a problem right. Because that women shouldn’t even having to be facing this. No matter what their age is right they shouldn’t get put in a situation that you were put in Chicago like that was that was sexual harassment and that was absolutely fireable behavior. Right. And yet there wasn’t really a system of support for you. You were younger you didn’t necessarily when able to navigate and identify that your boss was the person to blame and not you. The fact that you even had to experience that and that women still experience that is the problem is that we still can we still don’t have an equitable playing field within industry within sports journalism as a very specific example where that’s never thought about like it’s probably always at the back of a young woman’s mind in some degree to some degree. Right. Very much so.
[00:34:01] And it and I know back and this hasn’t changed very much at all. My fear was if I would have said something and to be honest that never occurred to me because I wouldn’t know who to say something to to be honest. I was just so afraid of it. Right. But if I said something I was going to be labeled. So who else who’s going to hire me. Because now they’re going to question and I do remember being a young girl and thinking that way of boy there’s not many women in this business and I’m in it. And I don’t want to mess this up. And so when I talked to you now and you know they’re trying to figure out the line and I’ll tell them stories like that sadly there’s for but let’s say I bring up that story they real quickly go why get that in. And I say to them I understand there’s a Muslim like any movement. All of a sudden there’s going to it’s going to shift way too over to one side. Sometimes that happens and we kind of have to figure that needle out. So all of a sudden you know I’m the first one to Goldson you guys when you say you look pretty today I’m not going to a charge you know and that’s not what I’m talking about. But what I’m talking about is this example do you think that’s OK and they’ll all go. No that’s horrible you dealt with that. So I want them at least to see that.
[00:35:14] And again you know the pendulum swinging right now the needles moving you know as everyone’s trying to figure out what is OK. But any woman would tell you. Most women will tell you I hate to say that I just said any many many of us will tell you in this business at least listen. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about exactly what you’re saying Lisa because the men who have power over me who are making me feel like my job and my job and my trajectory are dependent on my relationship with you and what I do and what I don’t do and that’s the heart of everything. Not you look pretty today right.
[00:35:52] I mean I caveat there unless that’s part of your boss who’s saying that to you. Right.
[00:35:56] Like I think there’s is. Yes yes. Yes. But again that goes back to making sure that we’re really clear with this and it goes back to everything you’re saying. Now back on us too. All right. It’s it’s. Don’t minimize this and don’t make this about. Can I hug you and can I tell you you look pretty. That it’s just kind of maddening that it’s such.
[00:36:21] Yeah that’s not what we’re talking about. That is a part of it that it’s a part of it we’re again. Are you going to tell me I look nice in the middle of the NEWSROOM.
[00:36:30] And you know and if you do you know like if usually again they’re not going to do that behavior when it’s not one on one. But but I try so hard for men to understand those examples and go we’re not complaining about just you know feeling icky or being whistled that this is something that that we feel shame about that we’re angry about that affects not just our jobs but it affects our lives and our mental health.
[00:36:56] Yeah right on. I mean the shame piece is huge trade and then the self-doubt and blame and that you know this feeling that you’ve done something or that your career hasn’t progressed because you didn’t do something and just kind of there is this gatekeeper mentality because there are so few women in the sports industry you know at large and that in broadcasting in particular that it’s so pervasive and so challenging and then with your company with galvanized it sounds like you’re trying to create a broader network of women who can support each other so that you know God forbid something like that happens. There’s individuals to turn to for support.
[00:37:37] I mean it’s more than that I realize galvanize but that’s one piece of it right building those connections so that folks have networks and then on loan to me that’s the biggest piece because again they’ll come and they’ll talk about you know it started off the company I would get all the young women who wanted to be on camera. And I get that that’s what you know I’ve done for a long time but I get a lot of young women who want to be sideline reporters. And I do not let them leave a boot camp a two day bootcamp without having a bigger answer because at the end of the day I love sideline reporting I’ve done it for a long time and still doing it so I still find the value. But at the end of the day my Sunday is a minute and a half on camera and I’ve worked just as hard as my male peers all week. And so it’s real hard to walk away on a Sunday and go You know I dominate because you’re leaving 90 minutes of what you know you know you’re no book or on the field. And so right where I got my value in sports is when I started a production company when I had to go out and get a corporate sponsor and get money and then go hire a crew and negotiate airtime and negotiate commercials.
[00:38:45] And that’s when I went I didn’t even know I was smart. I didn’t know I could do that. So I know I learned a whole lot during that period. I want these young women to know their value and it’s more than a minute and a half on Saturday or Sunday night and going back to what you were saying. I didn’t have a network of women. I didn’t have any peers going through this so I kept everything to myself. And I didn’t have any mentors and I and I’m not judging that. Because back then it was every sister for herself because we were just trying to make it right. So there’s a real selfishness to that. But then I got to a point where I think a lot of women do wear all of a sudden I started meeting some great women and going oh my God my whole life I’ve been so proud of the fact that I’m a guy’s girl and I’ve been with men and traveled with men. But all of a sudden I realized my world had been missing a lot without great women. And so what I wanted to do you know was give these young women something I didn’t have which is a network of women.
[00:39:48] So galvanises it’s it’s amazing and you know again we were on the on camera stuff even if you don’t want to be on camera because that’s confidence you know for you to be able to stand there look in the camera and or interview an owner or a player whatever sport it takes a lot of confidence to that and have a great conversation and know how to small talk with you know when you’re 18 years old and be able to walk up to a head coach and have him follow your lead. Is a is a great confidence booster. But the biggest thing is after two days these young women don’t want to do anything without each other. You know the first thing I say to them is everything we do we’re doing together every interview. You’re all watching every standup. You’re all watching. And they look like they’re all going to throw up when I say the hat. And we hated them at the end of the two days. I promise you you would be angry at me if I split you up. And that’s what happens. But that took me a bootcamp to figure out because the first boot camp I watched every young woman walk in that room and size each other up and I watch everybody judging everybody and I did come on exercises really quickly to go how do I make a room of women no matter what their age range and I’ve had 18 to 40s. So how can I get this room to support each other to fall in love with each other and understand that there’s enough success for all of us in this room. And so that’s what I love most about galvanises is watching that click. And that’s from the second they walk into that room until the end. It becomes this really tight group of women and mostly women who always thought that they were guys girls because they’re coming in going. I’ve always loved sports.
[00:41:28] I’ve always played sport I’ve always been more comfortable around the guys because there’s not a whole lot of women who think like me and all of a sudden they walk into a room and everybody’s thinking the same way. And that’s magical. So what I always tell them is there might be 20 of us in a room where there might be 12 of us in a room. But the only thing I ask of everybody is a leave I need you to bring this galvanize spirit. I need you to galvanize at your workplace or your school wherever you are. Because even though there’s 20 of us that gives the opportunity of 20 places to change that culture to change and all you need in one building is one woman to go in and find the other women. And usually in sports there’s not many. So you will seek out those women and you go. Come in and sisterhood. You know what. What I want I’m going to do this I’m going to work I’m helping each other and supporting each other. And you just change the culture. So I look at it as if I have a bouquet for 20 women that helped change 20 places and that’s what I love. So what they what galvanized will say is you know you will be better on camera your interviews will be more conversational. They will be conversation not interviews you will get to go to an NFL team or an Olympic hockey team and partner up. And those are awesome things but at the end of the day that that empowerment of themselves and each other is what I hope what I hope is the definition and galvanize.
[00:42:57] Yeah I mean I think that is extremely powerful because your comment about your early days in this work with very few women in the industry and so it felt like there was a level of competition. Right. Everyone was out themselves because there was only so much to go around and that is a that’s certainly a structural or or a system issue that leads women to believe that so you’re bucking the trend or pushing back on that and saying that’s not how it is there’s success for everyone and we really need each other. And I really think that that’s very powerful and important as these women move forward in their careers and as hopefully ego coming full circle back to the beginning of our conversation we’re talking about there’s not enough leadership of women in leadership in the sports industry. And so the more women can stay connected and move through the ranks so to speak together then that culture will eventually shift.
[00:43:48] Hopefully 100 percent. I love that Lisa. And also I know we’re I’m so big on great men you know like I’m always careful when I’m always talking about galvanize and sisterhood because our biggest allies are great men. And there’s so many of them and that’s the you know one of the big disappointments with everything going on now is that you know that I’ve always been them championing the good guys as well. And that also was part of it.
[00:44:13] So every time I bring 25 women to an NFL team and I bring a media guide of every one of these young women’s headshots and all their information their experience what they want to do because I always tell the women I want you to stand out because walk into this building and make this building go she was fantastic you know she’s terrific. So I work with all these men who get to know these women and then go she was great. What do we have open for her. How do I get her in the business. And so it also what I want to do is bring all these women in there so all the sudden that they realize how much that changes the building just having more women in there and that’s what I’m so what I love most are these these men who have to realize they’ve got to hire women and it makes sure it’s any conversation you know. It’s just a bunch of men standing around talking. I don’t care what they’re talking about. And all of a sudden one woman walks into a conversation there’s going to be at some point where they go huh. I did think about things like that. I never thought about it that way. Yes. I had so much to any to any room were in the same way it was you know vice versa. We’re all standing women or sitting around and have that man in there who says that they’re going to add that different element.
[00:45:30] And I think the good men understand that too that they want to be in and they want to be in a room where everybody looks different and it makes your building so much better.
[00:45:42] Yeah and then I just think there has to also be a ripple effect around these conversations going around galvanize in the work that you’re doing that trickles into. Also the representation of women’s sport. Right. So if they’re all women reporters in the industry and there are more women’s voices and women’s stories are being elevated in a way that is different. So you know what has been historically considered normal in sport when we as a as a as a public as a community as sports fans have access to great women’s sports too.
[00:46:14] Totally. I love that my. One of my favorite things to do is covering the Olympics for a million reasons. But one of the greatest things when I did my first one was all of a sudden doing so. I’d never interviewed women athletes so much. You know I had done some as I had done that I had done I had done some some some coverage of women but never at the level of the Olympics. And what I found was one they’re so excited to tell their stories but they’re reluctant it’s so typical of women where I know when I trained male athletes I’m always like you have a microphone in front of your face. That doesn’t mean you should use it. Now when I tell women athletes is you have a microphone in your face you better figure out how to use it. It’s very different because men will talk about anything if not well versed and it’s that confidence. Women are so much more reluctant to share their story. We don’t want to be sound like we’re bragging we don’t want out we don’t want to talk too much about ourselves. So all of a sudden you get to this place where women athletes you know are so central and and and and just so important. You know obviously to the Olympic Games and I love it because you haven’t heard those stories before and there these amazing stories of what they’ve overcome and it’s such a shame.
[00:47:40] Whenever I leave the Olympics I go OK well it’s going to take me four more years to do these great stories again because we just don’t cover women’s sports the same way. And when we do it has to be you know an ESPN W. It’s it’s like. And that’s what disappoints me because a great story is a great story an athlete story is a great story. It doesn’t matter if they’re men or women you know to reach the levels they do they’re in there they’ve had incredible stories of spirit and that will not change if we don’t have women in power who understand the value of telling a woman’s story not just to other women but the importance of women’s stories the same way that we want to hear about a male athlete and what they’ve overcome and how inspiring it is. And and I’m amazed that that needle has moved in 25 years.
[00:48:27] You know we have a lot of catch up to do there and I think part of the reluctance for women athletes to talk about themselves is just that for you know for the construction of gender and womanhood in fact and in them being caught by it. OK staying in the background and then you couple that with sport that has been cost or created as a very masculine space and so is it just then how to how to navigate that like you’re giving me an opportunity to speak my truth to share my story with you I don’t understand. Right. So there’s this cognitive dissonance that happens because women have been systematically excluded from school and from sports broadcasting and now there’s perhaps this opportunity and you don’t know how to manage it.
[00:49:12] It’s hard. It’s hard. And I really do think part of that really is I know the difference when I do media training you know the male athletes and women athletes we do a lot of what’s your story. You know just having to figure out your story a lot of people you’d be amazed at you wouldn’t be so many people would be about how many athletes have done that but then you think about it and go Well I’ve done that. What is my story. And I know I struggled with that. Everything changed with me. Probably when I was about 40 and went through my hardest times and my break my breakdowns first breakthrough moment was when I was going through a tough time. And all of a sudden all of a sudden found myself literally halfway up a 50 foot pole I think it was an 80 foot pole and not wanting to jump off of it and that was the whole exercise of having to do that. And the the coach not letting me come down and me going I don’t want to do this I’m coming down and him making me sit there you know 25 feet up and saying OK what’s going on right now. You know what are you worrying about. And all of a sudden I had a breakdown because I started thinking my whole life has been about asking other people about their adversity. My whole life it’s been about asking what’s your story. Now I’m sitting here at the worst time of my life. And metaphorically and literally halfway through a hole that I need to leave.
[00:50:32] Realizing what am I doing with adversity. I want to climb down. I don’t want to overcome. And it was a real big moment for me. And from that moment on I went What’s my story. I’ve got to stop hiding behind everybody else’s and I’ve got to learn mine. And so it changed me obviously as a woman and as a human being but as a reporter of really understanding how to ask people who they are and how to help them in that journey and realizing so many people had done that. You know I’m a great football player basketball player equestrian I’m a great swimmer but let’s really figure this out now and go a whole lot deeper than what you do. Let’s go to who you are and I find again men will play that a little bit easier. You know the drill drill drill dive a little bit but when I when I get with women that’s harder for them they don’t want to cry. They don’t want to. They don’t sometimes want to go that deep they’re scared to. Again they’re scared to be that vulnerable. And I always thought it would kind of be vice versa. But I feel men the male athletes I’ve interviewed and we’ve really done this. They appreciate the therapy session. I have found women athletes are real reluctant to do it. It’s got to be a lot more gentle and it’s got to take more time but I think it is because we have that fear of how vulnerable do I want to be it publicly especially on camera.
[00:51:54] What I’m trying to show that I’m this terrific you know strong warrior athlete and I don’t want to fall into that trap of crying on camera like a little girl be like a little girl.
[00:52:07] Gosh it’s so interesting. It’s so like how gender is constructed and how that’s playing off with men and with women who you interview and you try to encourage them to share their story and the pressure around performing in a certain way like off the field so to speak. Right. It’s not about it’s also about how you are in the field it’s how you perform on the field and what those effects might ultimately be and how culture and how perceived or the perception that we will be judged by how we behave or how we share our story limits our capacity to really engage.
[00:52:45] It really does. And again what I would say is I was victim to that up until that you know leaping off a pole. You know with that changed everything with me or I was like I’m like let me let me I’m more polls that I leap off of not literally I do not like jumping off things but figuratively. I felt so good my time I had to break open everything. And I’m careful with that because everybody finds that at different times of their life. If they do but I know that the first time I went and spoke to about 350 400 women and they were all women engineers and that was the first time I had them speaking outside of the sports world with women. And I was really nervous because I was thinking OK they’re not sports fans you know kind of throwing that stereotype there. You know they’re engineers so most of them are not going to be sports fans. They’re not going to know my language and I certainly don’t know. I did not have a conversation with them and it was one of my most favorite rooms I’ve ever been in because it wound up that we all speak the same language as women.
[00:53:50] And it turned into all the exercises I was saying I do with my young women. I do that with my 50 year old women that I hope for my 60 year old women. It’s we all struggle with that. And if that is just you know that’s culturally that’s. That’s you know that’s it’s it’s everything. So I’m real careful because whenever I do interviews they usually are about sports and I realize this isn’t just sports. I mean this is one business. But it’s all male dominated businesses and tell me one that isn’t. You know most of them are right then. It’s just we’re in and we’re in a society where men and women are trying to figure it out right now especially women. You know we’re finding our voices how do we use them. And that’s a real that’s a real scary to pose a real scary pole to leap off of for most of us.
[00:54:41] Yeah. And that’s kind of a beautiful way to end this conversation. I think that we each have to find our 80 foot pole metaphorically and figure out how we couldn’t take that leap of faith. Right for us. But part of that is owning and being able to share our story as women and create space for that and really you know continue to push back and say my story has value too.
[00:55:06] And I’ll just add one thing to because one of my favorite lessons from that was you know before I did that it really I would say you know before I did this exercise I was looking around the room. There are about 10 of us doing it and I look to see who is going to be the one to break down in the polls. Who’s going to be the one to cry because it wasn’t going to be me I don’t cry publicly. I don’t share my emotions publicly so you know at that point I was talking about myself and I had a massage to get to after that appointment. So I mean after that that exercise. So I was I was moving it and I was watching and there was a young pregnant woman and I totally got I spotted her immediately and was like that’s the one she’s got hormones going. She’s got emotions going you know she’s going to be the one that breaks down. She flew through that hole. Everybody did. And then I was about halfway through the group and then when I got up and all of a sudden went Oh no. And started crying and went I can’t believe it’s me. And that took everybody everybody had to talk me down or talk me up I said they talked me up and the woman who took the lead on that was a pregnant woman who really stood walked to the pole and started saying to me I’ve known you for one hour and I already know if you climb down right now you are going to curse yourself out all night.
[00:56:23] You are never going to enjoy this trip because you’re going to be so angry at yourself. So she talked me up to that poll when I jumped. And when we finished this exercise we all went around and everybody talks about what you learned and they got to me and everybody started laughing because you know obviously I got through the most and held everybody up. But then the young woman said Can I take your turn. And I was like gladly I have seared more than I want to share with this group so please take it. And what she said was I’m here at this place because I’m scared to death about being pregnant and having this baby. I never wanted to be a mom. I don’t know if I’m going to be a good mom. And then I found out I was having a girl. And I’m not a girls girl and I didn’t know if I was capable of that. And I didn’t know until I helped you go through that. And one of the reasons why I struggle on my poll is losing a mom at a young age and needing them and wanting that. And so what I always share is not only was that a huge moment that week for me to go through but I’m so blessed that I got to help somebody on her journey as well. And so there is a beauty about leaping and learning your lesson but you also don’t know who you’re holding hands with them sleeping with. And that’s a pretty magical lesson too and especially for someone you know I know me that was real.
[00:57:44] You know I’m going to do this by myself I don’t need anybody I’ve got this. And it was really wonderful. Wanted to find out how great it feels to have somebody help and to to have be another woman was pretty awesome.
[00:57:56] That is that’s a great story. I love that because you don’t know who you’re taking with you. And when I think about you know all the times that you’ve been seen on TV or all the times that you have written a piece been reporting that you are likely affecting someone’s image of themselves or their belief and their capacity to do something and I think that there is that connection which obviously galvanized more explicitly addresses. It’s happening all over the place. Right. And I think that that is one of the most important things as women that we can do to support each other is just to know that we can be there implicitly and explicitly for people so much. Thank you so much for your time today. It was a wonderful conversation. I really appreciated your insight and wisdom and sharing your experiences with us here at West.
[00:58:47] Lisa I so appreciate it. And I mean did we even record this I thought this was just you and I having a terrific conversation.
[00:58:54] Well it was terrific and I think it was being recorded. It’s been a wonderful hour chatting with you. And I look forward to talking with you more in the future. Me too. Thank you so much for having me Lisa.
[00:00:00] Thanks again to Laura Oxman for sharing her perspective and expertise about women in sports media. There certainly is a lot to think about and digest from our conversation. We hope you enjoyed this episode of talking points and that it sparked further questions and interest talking point can be found at was sports dot com and on WiSP Sports Radio which is available on iTunes. Tune in Stitcher Spotify and Google Play for download to your podcast player with over 700 episodes across 30 unique shows and a global audience of 1.5 million WiSP Sports Radio is the world’s largest network of podcasts for women’s sport. If you have comments about this month’s show or any other talking point episode you can reach us at info at wispsports.com or you can reach me directly at. Follow me @tritodefi on Twitter and Instagram. Thanks for listening.