Story and cover art by Chasia Webb
This story is part of the March 2022 issue of The Daily Universe Magazine.
“Shooters shoot. DM us.”
Those were the words glowing off the screen BYU sports media grad Macenzi McGuire read as she stared in disbelief after she commented on a video from TOGETHXR, a lifestyle, culture and sports account created by women for women.
What prompted this moment for her? Years of loving sports, understanding how to use social media and a little bit of luck.
“I’ve been involved with sports all throughout my life and found myself getting involved with all sorts of sports accounts,” McGuire said, “I’ve always been interested in pursuing (sports) professionally because I think there is nothing more connecting than humanizing athletes and seeing how they’re just like you.”
Social media has created a space in which people are able to see athletes in ways that were never thought possible. It has opened the door for many young female professionals to enter into a field they always dreamed of being involved in but have historically struggled to enter. Social media has created a gateway for not only jobs in sports but also a community and support group for women in a field typically dominated by men.
Women in sports
Feb. 2. Why is this day important? It’s Groundhog Day, Shakira’s birthday and most of all it’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day. This day has become a beacon of hope for females all over, especially when they are often overlooked by their male peers. Women often go unnoticed because sports have traditionally been viewed as a male-dominated area of interest.
Outlets and broadcasts overwhelmingly feature male athletes and their events. Studio programming is generally hosted by men. The language used in these broadcasts frequently has a male undertone and women are often not discussed when creating content for audiences.
Women have been an untapped demographic that is still undervalued today.
“You can’t just be casual about (watching sports), you can’t just leisurely enjoy it,” McGuire said.
In a study published by Christina Gough in June 2021, 61% of women identified as being a fan of a sports team with 12% describing themselves as avid fans.
While these numbers may not be as high as men’s, over 50% of women enjoy watching and participating in sporting events.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day was established in 1987 as a way to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, recognize the influence of sports participation for women and girls and honor the progress and continuing struggle for equality for women in sports.
Knowledge of this day has spread with the rise in social media and women from all over the world are sharing their experiences in sports and how it has impacted them. Millions of posts were shared this year with pictures and videos filled with thanks and gratitude for all those who inspired them.
One tweet from the KC Current, a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team, official account read, “Invest in women. Support women. For us, every day is National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Remember, you all, we all, belong in this space. Happy #NGWSD!”
“People are wanting women in sports,” McGuire said. “Women have a voice and have power.”
Social media has not only allowed for women to share their personal voices, but it has also opened avenues for sports brands and team accounts to be heard and run by women.
Social media is changing the way fans watch and interact with professional sports. Fans don’t need to attend games to engage with their favorite teams and players as social media has opened up new lines of communication.
Audiences are now not only watching games live, but they are also following live commentary with others all around the world in a space that was created for open communication. Social media has also allowed for more diversity among fans.
People from all corners of the world in varying walks of life are able to share their thoughts and ideas with others who are following the same people, teams and events, creating communities.
Team accounts have exploded on social media, connecting their audiences across multiple platforms. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok along with apps like ESPN and Bleacher Report allow fans to interact with not only each other but their favorite teams.
Fans have access to content that was previously unavailable that forms a stronger bond and allegiance to these teams.
“You can be connected to anybody on social media, including athletes and teams,” McGuire said.
However, those bonds do not come out of thin air or happen overnight. Time, patience and strategy go into every post that is created.
The creators behind the accounts are nameless and faceless and, more and more often, are women. Women have taken advantage of the rise in team-branded social media use. In 2018, The Verge found that over 40% of NFL teams’ social media accounts were run by women.
As a result, social media management and content creation have gained a reputation as a “pink collar” job, which translates to work traditionally associated with women. In the article “How Social Media Became a Pink Collar Job,” published in The Wire in 2018, the author suggests the reason for this is the feminized nature of social media employment.
Unfortunately, these new roles are too often connected to its “‘characteristic invisibility, lower pay, and marginal status’ within the tech industry.” This emphasizes the gender disparity and pay gap that exists in most areas of employment, including sports.
“It’s fascinating … because, in one sense, (these women) have access to the field where they want to work, but they’re essentially working in a role where they get (no) credit,” Erin Duffy, assistant professor in communications at Cornell said. “The whole virtue of social media, to do it well, (means) the role of the content creator is to be invisible.”
Although the invisibility of working in social media is problematic, it has provided some protection against harassment. Men automatically assume that the voice of their favorite teams and sports accounts are men.
In the article “The Person Running Your Favorite Football Teams Twitter is Probably a Woman,” author Britini de la Cretaz said, “For men’s professional sports teams, it can be easy to assume that the person behind the keyboard shares certain characteristics with the players they’re tasked with representing — namely, their gender.”
Social media community
Social media has not only created communities for teams and fans but has also provided safe spaces for women in sports. The ability to support and uplift other women has opened the doors for more women to enter the sports media field.
“There are no more individuals when it comes to women’s sports because everyone is looking to uplift each other and motivate each other,” McGuire said. Whether you are an athlete, former athlete, fan, or employed in the field, this growing community spans far and wide across the digital sphere.
One such niche community is the women in sports on TikTok. TikTok has been targeted toward millennials and Gen Z as an app to share funny videos, tips and tricks.
Users can track hashtags such as #womeninsports or #womeninsportsmedia. If a user “likes” a video then the app’s algorithm places new videos from the community into the user’s feed. From girls just interested in seeing their favorite female athletes’ highlights to professionals sharing how to apply for jobs, the support for women in sports is endless.
Users have been able to follow popular creators, “meet” others through commenting on similar posts and build their network and support. Many have found jobs, attended conferences and discovered college programs as a result of these communities.
These communities aren’t just related to social networks, they have evolved to include accounts from female-run businesses that consider what women want and how they consume media.
The GIST is a community for sports specifically from the perspective of women. ESPN, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated and others provide useful information but the content is typically geared toward men.
Sites like The GIST create more lanes for women to enter the conversation and be in control of it. The women in sports community also includes popular podcasts that focus on how to get into sports media and build a personal brand.
In recent years, social media has provided women with opportunities to work in sports by opening doors that were too often closed to women. The community for support and advice, being passionate about what women are doing and what women want to be is crucial.
McGuire took a chance and inserted herself into the community, ultimately landing a job with TOGETHXR. Social media opened the door, all women have to do now is be willing to walk through the frame.