The sports media voices of Title IX: Jamie Little

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Jamie LIttle is more than just a little pregnant.

She (and husband Cody Selman) are 7 1/2 into it as she puts on an altered firesuit and covers the Indy Racing League and NASCAR events for ESPN and ABC.

“Twenty years ago, women weren’t in the pits and now here I am in my condition and still on the air,” she said in an email earlier this week. “Mentality has come a long way.”

She’s going to keep working until her 36th week — that’s three more race — and “my bosses have never batted an eye.”

Having time to reflect on the anniversary of Title IX, Little (who also has her own website at http://www.jamielittle.com), offered this:

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I never played high school or collegiate sports so I was not directly affected by equality in sports …. until I decided to take on a career that was about 99 percent men.

I began announcing for motorsports at the age of 19. At that time, there wasn’t another woman in that role. A woman who had the microphone, who stood next to a male counterpart, as his equal. It was a new concept. I never thought much of it, just that I wanted to be an announcer/reporter for motorsports and I looked at myself as an equal to the men who preceded me.

As I’ve climbed the ladder in the motorsports world, I’ve realized the unique role I have. I know that not many women have been there, and women haven’t been there long. Period. It wasn’t long ago that women weren’t even allowed in the garage at races. For example, the Indy 500. And when 2004 rolled around, I did something no woman had ever been given the chance to do — I was a pit reporter on ABC, alongside eight men.

This is when it hit me, despite racing being primarily a man’s sport for all those years previous, women were capable of being there, in the car or on the microphone. … and things were changing.

I can honestly say, I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong. For the most part, I have been accepted as “another reporter” covering sports. hat is the best compliment to receive.

In part I believe that Title IX helped the acceptance of women like me in a role dominated by men for decades. With Title IX’s inception, I believe that broke the barriers for women who wanted to participate in sports and because of that, it allowed people watching and participating to accept this reality. By the time I came into my role in the early 2000s, people were used to seeing women participate on TV and although it was rare to see one covering the sports I was covering, it wasn’t so foreign.

I have to thank ESPN, ABC and the Disney family for being such an equal opportunity employer since day 1. My bosses at ESPN have always made me feel that even though we were venturing where few to no women had before, I was hired because I was the right person for the job. Not because I was female.

It’s hard to say if Title IX hadn’t happened, if I would hold the career I now have. It may have taken longer for the acceptance. Perhaps motorsports reporting would still be a boys club. If it hadn’t happened, I may not have had the audacity to believe that I could be an equal. That I could hold a job reporting alongside men, on primarily men.

And without Title IX, who knows if we’d have any female race car drivers. Would Danica be where she is? No matter what, it’s been a great journey getting to the level I am and I have Title IX and the women who knocked down the barriers before me to thank.

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