Celebrating Women’s History Month: Recognizing CSU athletes making history

Emma Askren, Sports Reporter

With March 1 marking the beginning of Women’s History Month, it’s important to highlight the influence of media on sports and, specifically, women in sports. 

Women in athletics are often underrepresented in sports reporting. In fact, according to UNESCO, women receive only 4% of media coverage in sports. However, at The Collegian, the split between men’s and women’s sports coverage is fairly even.


“Ten years ago, it was super rare, or not normal, for females to be in sports, especially male-dominated sports,” said Shannon O’Hair, head football equipment manager at Colorado State University.

At CSU, one-third of the CSU Athletics administration staff is female, which, contrary to popular belief, is surprisingly high for athletics. Other departments of CSU Athletics have higher percentages of female staff with Business Operations coming in at 75% women.

In the athletics industry, there’s a perception that female staff members aren’t qualified or may not know as much as male staff members. However, O’Hair said female staff are working just as hard if not harder. 

“It’s hard for young girls and women to think that they have opportunities in sports when they don’t see them.” -Lexie Keller, graduate student and track and field athlete

“It’s how you put yourself in certain situations,” O’Hair said. “You’re not going to be here twirling your hair. People get respect from you when they know that you’re here to work.” Fighting against that perception of other male coworkers can be exhausting. 

O’Hair is used to making history. Besides being one of the few female equipment managers in the country, she was the first female equipment manager for the Green Bay Packers. “I worked with them in 2016, and I was the first ever female to be hands-on within the organization,” O’Hair said.

At Colorado State, O’Hair isn’t the only woman making history. Three track and field athletes who just recently helped the Rams win the Mountain West Championships will be competing in the NCAA tournament. Lexie Keller, Sarah Carter and Gabi McDonald are all making their mark.

Despite these athletes all making history and being very successful in their respective events, they’ve all noticed inequalities in their sport. Keller, for example, has noticed the majority of ESPN broadcasts don’t focus on women’s events.

“The biggest inequality I’ve noticed is the media coverage,” Keller said. “I mean, even in the streams of track meets that you’ll watch online or even on ESPN, nine times out of 10 if they’re going to cut away from an event to interview an athlete or have some commentary, it’s going to be during the women’s events.”

Despite the majority of the recent posts on the CSU Athletics Instagram page focusing on the track and field teams’ success at the Mountain West Championships, it often focuses on the men’s sports, Keller said. And even though Instagram posts may seem to have little impact on sports, “It’s hard for young girls and women to think that they have opportunities in sports when they don’t see them,” Keller said.


Both Carter and McDonald had similar things to say about the discrimination against women in sports. “I’m sure I have (seen discrimination), I’ve just tried to keep my head down,” McDonald said. “I think I’ve gotten more judgment, not discrimination, especially being a female shot (putter). There’s a lot of stereotypes about being manly, and like, I’ve always had massive arms since I was 12 years old.”

Being a thrower, the arm strength required can lead to struggles with body image. “I think being a shot putter, you’re just the opposite of what people think a female athlete should be,” McDonald said.

“Women are always told you don’t want to look too strong or be too strong or whatever, and it’s (being a female athlete) that taught me that strong is beautiful, especially with body image things,” Carter said. 

Whenever she would get teased about her strength, McDonald would use it to her advantage. “When I was in middle school, I would get called manly or whatever, and I’d challenge people to arm wrestling competitions and be like, ‘Okay, you’re about to get beat by a girl,’” McDonald said.

“I’ve only been called manly by men who are not muscle-y,” McDonald said. “It’s all about perspective, and it’s stupid when those comments are from jealousy and that stuff.”

Despite the long history of prejudice against women in sports, staff members and athletes of CSU are pushing hard for the future. Keller, Carter and McDonald will be attending the NCAA tournament in the coming weeks, and O’Hair has spring football training coming up.

“Believe in what you can do because it’s always going to be inspiring to someone after you,” O’Hair said.

Reach Emma Askren at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @emma_askren.