L.A. Times sports writer overcomes gender discrimination

By Cristina Galvan

Award-winning sports writer Helene Elliott was a guest speaker at East Los Angeles College and talked to students about overcoming gender discrimination in the work force. Growing up, Elliott knew she wanted to be a sports writer, but from the start she encountered opposition from people who believed that she couldn’t do it simply because she was a woman. “I always wanted to be a sports writer,” said Elliott.

While in high school, even her college adviser laughed and told her, “Come on, be realistic.  Girls cannot be sports writers.” Elliott said that she felt like she was on trial every day in the work force, but she said the important thing is to know what you are doing.

During college she had to work three jobs. “Do not ever give up dreaming.  It is going to be hard pursuing your dream, but it is worth it,” Elliott said.

She tells stories of incidents that showed the hardships she had to put up with while trying to do her job. While at work she would answer phone calls and when callers found out they were speaking to a woman, they would ask to speak to someone who according to them, “knew what they were doing.”

Another time while covering a college football game, every other male reporter in the press box got a stack of papers including player statistics except her, because she was skipped on purpose. One time she wrote a story and a colleague told her, “It is so good, I cannot believe it was written by a woman.”

Elliott did not let all the gender discrimination get in the way, and she showed that women can succeed in a male- dominated field. She has covered teams such as the New York Yankees, Anaheim Angels and Los Angeles Lakers, as well as events like the World Cup and the Olympics. In 2005 Elliott was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto for her contributions to hockey writing. “I am the only female writer who has gotten that honor,” Elliott said.

Elliott has been a sports writer for the Chicago Sun Times, The New York Times and is currently working for the Los Angeles Times. Being a sports writer has given Elliott the opportunity to meet athletes and tell their stories.

Elliott said, “What I like best about my job is the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people.  I have met athletes who have overcome terrible obstacles.  These are athletes who were told no, they could not do something, and they found the strength to prove their doubters wrong.”

The East Side Spirit and Pride Club invited Elliott to speak at their meeting, Nov. 22.  Guillermo Rangel, who is the club’s president, said they invited Elliott for empowerment. “She is one of the few women working in a predominately male-oriented profession,” said Rangel.

Elan Maria Martin felt inspired after listening to Elliott. Martin said that as a female growing up, she was also told that she could not do certain things. “If she could do that and survive, we could do it too,” said Martin.

Elliot said that the best way to overcome gender inequality is to work hard in your profession and to get noticed through your skills. She said she would tell other women dealing with gender inequality to ignore the “idiots” out there and be classy. “There are times to pick which battles are important and will have impact.  Do your job well so you do not give people reason to criticize you or to criticize women in general,” Elliot said.

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