There is no doubt about it when people say that women, despite having some very visible on-air and executive roles, are traditionally under-represented and unrecognized in television sports. One organization that works to change this is the Association of Women in Radio and Television (AWRT), through the programming created for women, by women or about women.
This week the AWRT held their annual Gracie Awards in New York City, and ESPN was recognized for two of their features from E:60 and Outside the Lines. The Gracie Award is given to organizations and individuals who strive to encourage the realistic and faceted portrayal of women in entertainment, commercials, news, features and other programs.
Lisa Salters' (pictured left) E:60 feature on Alba Colon received the Gracie for Best Feature - Soft News Program. Colon, a native of Puerto Rico, is considered one of the most powerful women in NASCAR. The highest-ranked female engineer in the sport as General Motors' program manager, Colon has won five consecutive Manufacturers' Championships and is a driving force behind some of NASCAR's biggest names: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. She has fought her way to climb the ranks of this male-dominated sport.
Salters, through an ESPN spokesperson, said that "Alba Colon's story is such an inspiration because she has become so successful in a man's world and has continued to do so, quietly and with unparalleled dominance."
She added that "it was humbling to be in a room like that filled with so much talent - so to be recognized by those women is such an honor."
The other recognition received by ESPN was for a feature on Outside the Lines, "Mighty Macs," honored as Best Sports Program. Long before schools like Tennessee and Connecticut began dominating women's college basketball, the tiny Immaculata College dominated women's college basketball.
the first of three consecutive national championships in the sport,
and the first three contested. Photograph courtesy of ESPN.
The feature reviewed the 1972-74 "Mighty Macs," who won the first three national championships in women's basketball history. Immaculata was an improbable champion, an all-girls Catholic school with an enrollment of just 400 students. But led by 23 year-old coach Cathy Rush, at a time when women were fighting for equal rights, they came to represent female empowerment -- on a basketball court in front of bucket-beating nuns. (Editor's Note: Not just any nuns, but the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the same order that educated me and my daughters in elementary school.)
2009 AWRT Gracie Award for Best Feature - Soft News Program to
Lisa Salters (left) for her E:60 feature on Alba Colon. Also pictured
is Julie Carruthers, Executive Producer for ABC's All My Children,
who also received her award from Storm.
Times have changed. Immaculata us now a university. Title IX has helped opened the doors for girls to have new doors in sport open to them at a young age. ESPN's Pam Ward has taken on the role of play-by-play in the male dominated sport of college football.
You can see examples of this at other networks as well. Over at CBS Sports, women fill key roles. Director Suzanne Smith calls shots on NFL game broadcasts. Senior Vice-President of Communications LeslieAnne Wade runs the public relations operation, and a young woman by the name of Lisa Kyle is the production manager for the CBS Sports College Football "A" crew.
Photographs by Larry Busacca/Wireimage, provided courtesy of ESPN.
Association of Women in Radio and Television (AWRT)
The Gracie Awards