GALvanize bootcamp empowers women in sports
Fall 2015 edition
Look at the bylines. Take a glance at the sidelines. Watch the in studio reports. You’ll come to the same conclusion every time: there aren’t many women in sports journalism.
Celeste Gehring and Laura Okmin have lived it day in and day out.
“When I first started my career, I didn’t have a woman mentor I could talk to, understand what I was going through and help me through my career,” Gehring said. “A lot of times, I was turning to everybody I could, and they didn’t have a woman who could help me out. You always looked to create what you didn’t have.”
Without a female mentor, Gehring worked her way up the ladder at Fox Sports for the past 15 years and is now vice president for production.
Okmin, a University of Kansas School of Journalism alumna, has been employed by Fox Sports since 2002, working as a host, anchor, reporter, producer and analyst.
The two women met while they worked for CNN Sports in Atlanta. There they formed their brainchild, GALvanize, a boot camp-style organization that holds events all over the country that encourages women in the sports industry to unite, rather than compete with each other.
About 50 women attended the GALvanize boot camp at KU in late September.
At the boot camp, the women wrote their names, along with their biggest fears, on a name tag, and introduced themselves to each other. The activity was to help the women break out of their comfort zones, as well as to get advice from their fellow journalists.
After the mingling was done, each woman stood up, introduced herself to the large group, stated her fear and shared the best piece of advice she received. When the entire group had shared, the process started over, with each woman coming to the front of the room, restating her fear and receiving positive encouragement from the group.
It may sound cheesy, but senior journalism student Kirsten Peterson said that was her favorite part.
Her fear? Having her personal life get in the way of her professional goals.
“It was a great opportunity for all of us to get to know each other, while being in one room and having the same mindset and goals. It was so much fun and one of the most inspirational things I’ve been to.”
–Kirsten Peterson, senior
Throughout the rest of the day, the women worked on confidence in interviews by interviewing each other and Brian McRae, a former professional baseball player who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1985.
“I feel like I don’t know that many people in the journalism school who are women, just because we are all different ages and spread out throughout the journalism school,” Peterson said. “It was a great opportunity for all of us to get to know each other, while being in one room and having the same mindset and goals. It was so much fun and one of the most inspirational things I’ve been to.”
Peterson was so inspired, she’s taking the GALvanize message one step further. She wanted to connect the women interested in sports journalism at KU in an even more concrete way. From there, KU Sidelines was born.
KU Sidelines is a television show that is in its beginning stages that will be reported, anchored, produced and directed by all women in Media Crossroads.
“I initially started out with this idea because I’m very independent with what I do,” Peterson said. “I started thinking of people who could help me and who I could help. There are so many people in the journalism school, especially women, who need each other to do things and help each other cover events. I remembered GALvanize and thought I could pool together those women and put together a team who helps one another and be able to change the face of sports and how to cover sports. GALvanize was a huge reason why I’m doing it.”
– Amie Just is a junior from Funk, Nebraska, studying news and information. This summer, Just was named a winner of the prestigious 2015 Jim Murray Memorial Foundation scholarship, a national award for excellence in sports writing at the college level. Read the story here.
Facing fears, building bonds
I wasn’t ready to wear a nametag with my biggest fear scribed in big, violet letters.
I’m a textbook ambivert. My personality is balanced by both extrovert and introvert features. And in situations such as this, my introvert traits rise to the surface faster than you can say “shy.”
But GALvanize is about stepping out of your comfort zone. So I went with it.
What is GALvanize? It’s an organization that was created by Laura Okmin and Celeste Gehring. Okmin is a KU alumna who currently works for Fox Sports as a sideline reporter and feature reporter. Gehring is the vice president of events and field production for Fox Sports. They created GALvanize to “help create, build and support” a network “for the next generation of amazing women.” Their motto is “Girls Compete. Women Empower.” That reflects on how women in the industry need to build each other up and work with each other, not tear each other down.
While going with it, I grabbed a purple Sharpie, took a deep breath and scribbled the thing that gives me the most anxiety.
"My biggest fear is having my talent be overshadowed by my gender."
My fear and its correlation to what I want to do for a living was the sole reason why I wanted to go through the GALvanize boot camp.
I’m a sports writer. I don’t see many other women in the field. I embrace it, but at the same time, it messes with my psyche. Some of the things men have said to me in person and at me on social media has shredded some of my brain cells.
“You just want to be in the sports industry so you can stare at [expletive] all day.”
“You don’t look like a member of the media.”
“She’s a woman who obviously doesn’t understand sports.”
“Wow. You’re obviously a stupid [expletive].”
“TV isn’t for you. You have a face for print.”
I realize it’s only going to get worse, but participating in the GALvanize boot camp helped me realize that I’m not alone and has helped boost my confidence as I delve into the real world. Thanks, Laura and Celeste and the J-School, for the awesome opportunity.
– Amie Just