Women in sports journalism: Alison Mitchell, Natalie Pirks

Women account for just 10% of sports journalists - so why is it still such a male-dominated sector, and what is being done to change this? Today presenter Alison Mitchell, a commentator on Test Match Special, meets BBC News sports correspondent Natalie Pirks, BBC Sport development editor Claire Stocks and Sport multiplatform assistant producer Emily Croydon.

‘Do you like cricket?’ is a question Alison Mitchell is often asked when she tells people she’s a cricket commentator for BBC Sport. Yet male sports journalists are rarely asked this. There remains a general assumption that men ‘get’ sport whereas women must prove their sporting credentials. Is this why only 10% of sports journalists are women?  

Alison, who is a presenter on the Today programme, believes more women need to develop a passion for sport before we can expect a greater number on the front line of sports journalism. “Then they need to be determined enough to keep knocking on doors, making contacts and doing work experience - the same as any man trying to get into this competitive industry.” 

BBC Sport multiplatform assistant producer Emily Croydon, who has worked in sports journalism for four years, dreamed of being a sports journalist from the age of 13. She says not to believe the hype that it’s impossible for women to get into this business: “I used to think that and blazed in determined to prove I was good enough to do this job. Actually, I tried to do far too much. I’ve learnt that you can’t know everything - nor are you expected to. It’s best to be true to yourself, know your stuff and get it right.”

Claire Stocks, development editor for BBC Sport, says it is about “sticking out” and being different. She says some women might be afraid to apply when they are competing with so many men, but a female applicant can stand out and offer something different. “They are out there,” says Claire. “They’re just not necessarily applying through the same routes.” Claire believes some positive discrimination is required to level the “playing field”. 

Natalie Pirks, BBC News sports correspondent, says: “There is still a way that we need to approach women’s sport that isn’t box-ticking, but at the same time is taking it at face value.”

A lot of women are interested in sport but there is a long way to go before they stop being asked ‘do you likesport?’


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