Sports communication organization breaks gender barriers

The Association for Women in Sports Media, a new campus organization, is shedding light on gender equality within the field of sports communication.

AWSM is a national organization that began in 1987 as an advocacy and networking group. This is the first semester Bradley has its own AWSM student group.

“I was in a class last year that was just about international issues and ethics in sports, and that covered both sports media as well as physical sports teams,” Jaclyn Clark, president of AWSM and a sophomore sports communications major, said. “That class is where a majority of [the current members] came from, and we recognized that this is a problem … we wanted to get a jumpstart in the Bradley community and hopefully recognize those issues and do our best to prepare for when we have to face them in the real world.”

Dunja Antunovic, AWSM’s faculty advisor and assistant professor of sports communication, said she had anticipated only two or three students signing up, but in the end, she had seven sign up. Those seven students are now the executive board of the organization, and Antunovic said she’s hoping to get a larger membership.

AWSM held its first event last Monday. Lindsey Mills and Clay Gordon, news anchors for WMBD News in Peoria, came to speak to students as part of a panel about working in the broadcast industry and experiences they had with gender-based discrimination in the workplace.

“[They spoke about] the field that we’re focusing on right now, but they had great background experience in these issues that they’re talking about,” Clark said. “We were fortunate enough that they were right here, and we didn’t have to worry about them traveling.”

AWSM plans to grow the group’s numbers and host other events in the future aimed at educating students on the problems of gender biases in professional media settings.

“It’s important, because if you’re going into a male-dominated field or even a female-dominated field, the things we want to do are workshops to learn from other peoples’ experiences,” Clark said. “When we face [these issues] someday, we can professionally and adequately address any problem. I think it’ll help any student, regardless of the field you’re going into, to recognize it.”

The AWSM group is not only the first club for women in sports media at Bradley, but it is the first club based out of the Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication.

“I think it’s really important for students in the Charley Steiner School to understand some of these dynamics in the industry and to be prepared to negotiate some of these issues,” Antunovic said. “Clearly, this is a student-led initiative … they’ve really run with it. They are the ones who feel like there’s a need for it on campus as well as for their professional development.”

Clark also said the group wants to broaden its focus beyond women entering the professional sports world.

“One day, we want to be successful enough as a club on campus to just recognize any male-dominated field … like engineering, for example, and be able to offer them resources to recognize those problems and combat them,” Clark said. “Even if you’re a male going into the sports media world, you still have to play that role if you see [the issues] to step up. [AWSM] offers all students that opportunity to learn and, hopefully one day, completely eliminate the gender biases in any field at all.”

For more information on the group, contact Clark at jeclark@mail.bradley.edu.

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