What Glass Ceiling?
Shelley Alingas MA ’17 is breaking gender barriers in the sports world
Shelley Alingas MA ’17 is a Raiders diehard. She sports her silver-and-black Charles Woodson jersey on game days. Her Twitter bio reads, “Oakland sports fan for life.” She even flew to Mexico City to watch her team take on the NFL Houston Texans last February.
Despite all this, men often question her sports bona fides.
“I think, inherently, men tend to see a female sports fan as not a ‘real’ fan,” says Alingas, who recalls being “quizzed” by men on her sports knowledge. “Men assume you’re a fan of a sport because your boyfriend got you into it. You’re never just a fan on your own merit.”
A chance to relish
So when the Sport Management program student received an email earlier this year about an internship at a new media company for and by women sports fans, she knew she wanted to be involved. But between two jobs and graduate school, she didn’t have time to take on the role at The Relish.
Instead, she pitched the site’s editors on a travel series, beginning with a video about her upcoming trip to see the Raiders in Mexico City. She’d shoot footage and record a voiceover, and they’d edit the material and publish it. They agreed. Later videos in the series include a piece exploring Chicago’s best pre-Cubs’ game hangouts and one about South African cricket that’s been viewed nearly 25,000 times. The videos gave Alingas valuable on-screen experience for the career she wants to pursue in sports media, either in front of or behind the camera.
Along the way, she’s discovered that while being a female sports fan isn’t easy, being a woman in the male-dominated sports industry is even harder. Women broadcasters, for example, are often confined to sideline or field reporter positions, says Alingas. And they’re likely to face a barrage of misogynistic and sexist comments online.
“We’re seeing more women in the industry, especially in sport broadcast,” says Alingas. “But it’s 2017, and we’re barely breaking that ceiling.”
Back on track
Alingas, who spent 12 years in the nonprofit sector before enrolling at USF, is eager to help tear down barriers. In high school she dreamed of being a sports journalist, but shifted plans when her undergraduate college ended its journalism program.
Now she’s back on track, and credits the Sport Management program with opening the door to opportunities and career connections.
In the fall, she volunteered to be an emcee for the second Women Sports Film Festival, in Oakland, which featured documentaries about women athletes and the impact of sports on girls around the globe. At the festival, she met people like Aubrey Aquino, a former NFL cheerleader turned sports broadcaster.
Alingas ended up at the festival through connections that began with an informational interview at a sports nonprofit she was interested in. Faculty in the Sport Management program encourage students to conduct these types of interviews, and some professors even help set them up. It’s important to learn how to turn a brief encounter into a lasting relationship, because in the sports industry it’s all about who you know, Alingas says.
“The program boasts an incredible network,” Alingas says. “You’re connected to all these people, and magic sparks from there.”
Another connection was to Christina Low MA ’05, former head of broadcast marketing for the International Olympic Committee. Low was a guest speaker in Alingas’ Global Football class and is now one of Alingas’ mentors.
“She has so much wisdom,” says Alingas, who now feels ready and prepared for her dream career. “There’s so much to learn from somebody who’s been in sports for a couple of decades, and she wants to share it.”