Women in sports: Making strides within an industry dominated by men

On a typical day in Seattle, Boise State alum Ashley Cox will begin her morning by working a radio show. From the studio, Cox drives to the ballpark and takes in the smell of gameday hotdogs and peanuts where she covers the Seattle Mariners baseball game. 

After the Mariners game is over, she walks across the street to a different stadium to cover the Seattle Sounders soccer match where she will wrap up her workday. Cox says that working two to three gigs a day is typical for her career field. 

Cox currently resides in Seattle where she works as a reporter and stadium host. However, her work experience isn’t just limited to “The Emerald City”. Cox is also a production/operations manager for Fox Sports, and for the past several months she has traveled across the country to cover National Football League (NFL) games. 

[Photo of Boise State alum and Fox Sports Reporter Ashley Cox]
Photo courtesy Ashley Cox

As a woman within an industry dominated by men, Cox has seen from a personal perspective the change in organizations and leagues when it comes to hiring women for different roles and positions. 

“I feel there’s a lack of women within the sports industry mainly because of an old school mentality,” Cox said. “A mentality that women don’t have as much experience because they haven’t played the sport.”

Women have not always been welcomed into the sports industry with open arms because of these beliefs, but Cox believes they still have the proper skills, knowledge and work ethic for any position within the sports industry. 

Through the struggles, women like Cox, first collegiate football placekicker Sarah Fuller, first female NFL official Sarah Thomas and other trailblazers are breaking down barriers. Paving the way for others by working hard and starting the conversation, women in the sports industry are working together to make the path for others easier to follow.

Breaking through the glass ceiling

In 2017, Cox was asked by Fox Sports Reporter Laura Okimin to be a production assistant for the World Series. Cox knew that she was only going to be working if the game went six and seven, but after a lot of hoping and praying she received the chance to cover the final two games. From that opportunity, she was able to gain contacts that led her to the positions she has today. 

Being the first can be difficult, but helps others who want to be a part of the male-dominated industry.

Fuller is a senior goalkeeper at Vanderbilt and was announced as the kicker for the university’s football team in their game against Missouri on Saturday, Nov. 28. As she started the second half with a kick-off for the Commodores, Fuller would go down in history as the first woman to play in a Power Five football game. 

Although Fuller received praise from ESPN, athletes, celebrities and a great amount of sports fans, she still received hate from those who felt football was a “man’s game.”

Comments such as “she’s gonna get slaughtered on a fire play” or “I hope she gets plowed” circulated the internet and expressed displeasure about Fuller playing in a football game. 

Many of these comments are common among women working in the sports industry. Although Cox says she has felt inferior in her job due to the fact that she is a woman, she has proven herself to be successful within the industry. While at Boise State, Cox hosted two radio shows with The Pulse and also had a sports marketing internship with Boise State athletics.

“My biggest advice for women who are wanting to get into the sports industry is to go for it,” Cox said. “Know that it won’t happen overnight, but if you’re passionate about it, every experience is worth the wait.”   

Despite these comments, other trailblazers like Sarah Thomas proved the nay-sayers wrong with their work ethic. Thomas is currently the only female official in the NFL and prior to being hired by the NFL in 2015, Fuller officiated college football games. Since 2015, she has officiated dozens of NFL games as a line and down judge, but has also received opportunities to officiate as a head linesman. 

Thomas isn’t the only female you can find on NFL football fields. Besides female reporters and staff, history was made this NFL season on Sept. 27 when Thomas was joined on the field with female coaches and managers: Jennifer Welter, a defensive specialist with the Arizona Cardinals, Kelsey Martinez a former strength coach for the Las Vegas Raiders, Jennifer King a coaching intern with the Washington Football Team and Callie Brownson chief of staff with the Cleveland Browns.

Other women making strides within the sports industry are graduates of Boise State who have begun work in different sports positions from the collegiate to professional level. 

Boise State alum look to carry the torch

Dancing for four years on the Boise State Mane Line Dance Team and serving as captain her senior year, Clesi Crochet was constantly around sports. Her passion for sports developed as a child after she participated in multiple sports growing up. Sports were the one thing that gave her stability and taught her valuable life lessons. 

[Photo of Clesi Crochet, Boise State Mane Line Dance Team]
Photo courtesy Clesi Crochet

As a full-time student-athlete, Crochet didn’t know what she wanted to pursue a career in, but knew she wanted to remain involved in sports. While cheering at a variety of Boise State athletic events, Crochet was able to gain connections which ultimately led her to the position she is in today. Still in Boise as an alum, Crochet is now the assistant to the head coach for On-Campus Recruiting and Operations Department.

“I decided that I was going to work harder than I ever have before to make sure that I am, and will, continue to be successful in this industry,” Crochet said. “A huge part of what ignited that drive in me was that I thrived off of the challenge of being a female in this intimidating industry. I liked that people were shocked when I told them I worked in football recruiting. I was determined to prove anyone wrong who thought that a girl couldn’t work or be successful in a career in the sports industry.”

During that internship, Crochet worked alongside Boise State women’s basketball alum Joyce Harrell under the director of operations. 

Harrell is a personnel scout for the Miami Dolphins, making her and another hire the first two female scouts for the organizations. 

During her senior year at Boise State, Harrell needed a three-credit class in order to remain eligible for her final season on the basketball team. She was able to take a work internship class under the director of operations for the football team. 

Becoming a graduate assistant the following year helped Harrell land her current position. This opportunity allowed her to continue school at Boise State and graduate with her master’s degree. 

[Photo of Boise State women’s basketball alum Joyce Harrell]
Photo by Mackenzie Hudson | The Arbiter

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and put yourself out there,” Harrell said. “There’s a lot of times I will be in a room and I’m the only woman. Just go for it, it never hurts to speak up.” 

Harrell says she is fortunate to have the people in her work environment respect her because not every woman is as lucky in their male-dominated organizations. 

“I think now that everybody is starting to respect women in sports a lot more, a lot of jobs have been added,” Harrell said. “It’s been very helpful just to have people speak up for you and recommend you, and just earning respect from more people across the league has been helpful. I think that’s been the biggest thing [regarding] the change of women in sports is that we’re earning the respect that we’ve always deserved.”

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