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Dreaming of a future for women in sports

By Beatrice Go  Published Mar 18, 2022 5:00 am

We are living in an age of women.

It’s not surprising to see women in leadership, starting their own businesses, choosing to live single and independent lives, and just wanting better lives for themselves.

As a sports journalist, I personally have been surrounded by women who are not only dreamers, but are achievers of their dreams as well.

During my time in Rappler, I closely covered weightlifting queen Hidilyn Diaz, who made history winning the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal. She started her career lifting homemade barbells, but pushed on for decades to claim the highest prize in sports.

Becoming a female sports journalist, though, was actually something that I couldn’t dream of back when I was young.

Sports journalist Beatrice Go

I came from an all-girls private school that had limited support for sports. In our physical education classes, we were forced to learn different kinds of dances every year instead of Olympic sports because the former was considered more “feminine.” It was very rare to hear my friends from school converse about basketball games or talk about how excellent Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were in football.

Looking back, there was a gender divide between sports and being a woman of faith and service that was institutionally instilled upon the students. On a larger scale, there was a lack of effort to put women in sports on a pedestal because of the mindset that there would be no career for us as athletes or sports journalists. While I believe that student-athletes are students first before athletes, I feel that there could be more encouragement for us to pursue our dreams in sports.

But even if it was not a dream of mine yet, I unexpectedly walked into the path that led me to where I am now. In college, I started as a campus journalist with a competitive swimming background and my original intention was just to tell the stories of excelling, yet undercovered athletes in my school. I eventually became the sports editor of my campus publication and covered the UAAP, which landed me a job in Rappler despite not being a communications major.

I was blessed to have been under the mentorship of a female sports editor, Jasmine Payo, who had accomplished so much in her career.

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In the newsroom, the staff members were given assignments according to our strengths and interests in a sport, not based on gender. I covered a veteran-laden beat of Philippines sports governance because of my experience of being an amateur athlete, which helped me understand the full context of sports politics. I was blessed to be given a choice of assignments, as female sports journalists generally do not get an “outright” opportunity to cover popular Filipino sports such as basketball and boxing.

There is also growing support for female sports journalists as more of us continue to stay in the industry. In the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, me and other journalists chased after medal-winning matches, battled for the right to be in a mixed zone, and transcribed our interviews together. I would be staying up until past 1 a.m. to finish writing feature stories after filming a “standupper” for the daily newscast. But on the lighter side of things, I remember how Indonesian iced coffee fueled ABS-CBN’s Camille Naredo and I, and how we snuck into the closing ceremonies to parade with the Philippine delegation under the rain.

These were the moments where I felt my spirit flourish. Early on in my career, I got a chance to be a part of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) International Development’s Women In News and Sport Initiative (WINS) that aims to equip and raise up female sports journalists to compete for a spot in a male-dominated industry.

It was the first time I felt valued because award-winning journalists invested their time to train and develop our skills in different areas of media. I was also able to develop life-long friendships with them as they made themselves available when I needed mentorship and support for my goals in life. My involvement in WINS was made more memorable when I was granted a fellowship to cover the 2019 Arafura Games in Darwin, Australia.

Instead of expecting women to conform to what men are currently doing, why not let women live out the uniqueness and color they bring to the table?

As I continue to discover how I can grow further in this career, I am now giving back to this initiative that continues to build up and create a community of female sports journalists from the Asia-Pacific region. It was in this community where I learned about what my female colleagues go through in their respective companies and had my own experiences validated. It is now my dream to extend the same love and support I received and to light a fire in young journalists, to show that they are capable of excellence.

But more than learning, all these God-ordained experiences have offered a new perspective and fueled bigger dreams for me.

People in power can easily open up opportunities for women for the sake of gender equality, but they all give up when they are called to renew their perspectives and counter the current culture in order to move forward.

There are still men who hinder women from joining male-dominated sports beats and justify it as “avoiding harassment cases.” Why not teach men to respect women instead?

Instead of expecting women to conform to what men are currently doing, why not let women live out the uniqueness and color they bring to the table?

Instead of romanticizing the difficult rise of women, why not hold powerful institutions accountable for their sins?

Yes, we have a community of strong women, but we cannot settle for what we have achieved now. There is still more to be done and it will require both men and women to make a shift, to dream, and to work toward a better and equitable society.

Let women become the women they’re born to be. I would love to see the day when young girls can dream of being part of women’s sports with no hesitation.