ABU DHABI: There has never been a better time for women to enter the regional sports media world.
Women have been increasingly proactive in the media, especially in news broadcasting, over recent decades, but unfortunately still trail behind in the sports segment, which is growing dramatically, professionals told Arab News at the Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi.
“Today we are very progressive in the sports industry. But there are still things that are holding back women journalists to pursue the sports sector,” Zsuzsa Csistzu, a sports journalist for 30 years, said.
“The biggest factor that holds back women in this field is the lack of courage, mostly because they don’t think they can do it.”
GCC countries today host some of the world’s biggest international sporting events, and more Arab female athletes are competing in them, as well as in other tournaments around the world.
“There is a huge interest growing for female sports in the Gulf region. And there is a huge female audience who would like to see more females on TV, who would like to understand sports from a woman’s perspective.” Csistzu added.
However, she has a positive message for young female reporters and journalists in the region.
“Now this is the time better than ever to try to step in and find your space,” said Csistzu. “Be courageous enough to be yourself as a woman. You don’t have to resemble a man on screen, don’t have to talk like a man. Find your voice. Focus on the human beyond the athlete.”
Sawsan Saad, a sports reporter and stadium commentator in the UAE, told Arab News that she chose her career based on her love of sports.
“I used my passion for sports as a career, and I encourage other women to do that. There is a need for women to come into the sports media sector.”
She said that potential female reporters may be discouraged today, as they still believe the media is a male-dominated space.
“Courage is all that female journalists and reporters need today. Get the knowledge, and just go down to the field and be yourself, and you will shine. Sports reporting is different from any other — you can use the language you want, dress the way you want, you will not be in a studio and limited.”
Saad acknowledges that it remains a difficult sector to break into, and requires dedication and hard work.
“It needs long working hours and lots of travel,” she said. “That’s why the passion for sports here needs to be high. And also the competition with a man is harder than with a woman.”
According to Saad, with the number of female athletes rising steadily, it is only right that proportional representation should come from female reporters.
“Today there are a lot of Arab women athletes making it to international tournaments, and they need us as female journalists and reporters to highlight them in the Arab media. There are many stories that still need to be told,” she said.
Abdullah Alyassi, head of media relations at the Sharjah Government Media Bureau, agreed there is a gap for female sports reporters, and said family and universities have to play a bigger role.
“Today women in our region have proven their value in all sectors,” he said.
“in sports, our governments have opened up for women tournaments, challenges and clubs, but still the culture needs to also change and encourage more females to have interest in sports. Media organizations need to include them more in sports journalism; the audience does not differentiate between female or male reporters or writers.
“Women journalists need to also take the step and not be afraid,” Alyassi added. “They can increase their knowledge in sports and take more courses, as they are available to all.”