Wed, 05/25/2016 - 10:54

Posted by H.G. Watson on January 29, 2016

By H.G. Watson, Associate Editor

Leandra Vermeulen loved working on broadcasts at the Pan Am Games in Toronto last summer. But she didn’t love how few other women she saw working alongside her.

“It kind of worried me,” she said.

So the fourth-year student in Ryerson’s RTA School of Media decided she wanted to do something to encourage more women to pursue jobs both behind and in front of the camera during sports broadcasts. Last November she, along with three other colleagues—Erin Graham, Keerthika Uthayakumar and Maria Papadakis—decided to assemble an all-women team to produce a broadcast of a Ryerson Rams hockey game.

On Jan. 29, the crew of 23 women will direct, produce and provide commentary on the Ram’s women’s hockey team home game against the Windsor Lancers, broadcast live on Rogers TV Channel 10 in Toronto and online on the Ontario University Athletics website.

“I thought it would be a great platform to try this and prove that women can create a broadcast on themselves,” said Vermeulen.

Gender inequality in sports broadcasting is well-documented. Female sports reporters have often faced issues of gaining access to locker rooms and been on the receiving end of harassment and sexism from fans and players alike.

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Jessica Mendoza, the MLB’s first female analyst, was targeted  with online harassment after she called her first game last year.

Both the play-by-play and colour commentators on Jan. 29’s Ryerson Ram’s broadcast will be women.

After Vermeulen and her colleagues put out a call for volunteers in November, interest was so high they ended up having to turn people away.

They also received a vote of confidence from a high place—Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke sent the entire crew a letter of support in advance of the game.

What is most important to to Vermeulen is that women see themselves reflected in those producing the game, so that those jobs don’t feel out of reach.

“My main goal for this is to prove that women can do anything men can do,” she said. “Especially when it comes to sports broadcasting.”

H.G. Watson is an employee of Ryerson University. J-Source, and all of its staff, are editorially independent from Ryerson. She can be reached at hgwatson@j-source.ca or on Twitter.

J-Source and ProjetJ are publications of the Canadian Journalism Project, a venture among post-secondary journalism schools and programs across Canada, led by Ryerson University, Université Laval and Carleton University and supported by a group of donors.