"You constantly feel like you have to prove yourself" - Gemma Clarke shares her experience as a female football journalist

The former sports journalist spoke to Off The Ball this evening

Press Box

Image: Nigel French EMPICS Sport

Sexism and discrimination in the workplace remains a very really issue in the 21st century and no work environment is immune to it.

Speaking on tonight's show, writer Gemma Clarke shared with Off The Ball her experience of working as a football reporter in her early 20s and the challenges she faced in a male-dominated profession.

"I don't have very many happy memories of that time, they're more sort of flashbacks," Clarke explained. "It was something I grew up loving. I grew up playing football. 

"I went into [reporting] with the naivety that it was open to anybody that loves football. That's the sort of language that connects us all. Only going into the industry did I realise that it was closed off, in a lot of ways, to women. It was a harsh learning curve."

Clarke, who is a is a screenwriter, fiction writer and essayist based in the US, gave some instances of what life was like in the press box during games.

"You constantly feel like you have to prove yourself, not just in the industry but outside as well. If I told anyone I was a football writer, they would be like 'OK, who won the FA Cup in 1959?'.

"I do think it's a very difficult world for a woman to cement herself in."

She also discussed a particularly "memorable" situation where she was mistaken for catering staff: "I'm a Leicester fan and this was my first game covering Leicester. I was very excited. 

"A nice journalist tapped me on the arm and said 'well done, these are very delicious profiteroles'. And it was quite mortifying because then I had to go sit near him in the press box and get my laptop. There aren't very many woman in the press boxes, there's usually one or two per game, and that's maybe steadily on the increase. But it still has a long way to go."

Asked whether or not she felt this was restricted to print media she replied: "I think it's across the game as a whole. I've had experiences in different broadcast offices that were pretty unsavoury too."