South Asian women face many obstacles here in the U.S. The cultural patriarchy, the glass ceiling, pay gap, maternity leave, and expectations to cook, clean and care for the family. Trying to follow one’s passion is hard enough, but trying to break into a male dominated industry like sports may seem nearly impossible. But it’s not; over the last decade the South Asian women in the sports community have been making splashes of impact in various aspects of the industry. Mohini Bhardwaj, the first South Asian American gymnast who earned a team silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. There are also tennis stars like Sania Mirza, Shikha Uberoi and Neha Uberoi. In media, Aditi Kinkhabwala who was a journalist for the Wall Street Journal is now a reporter for the NFL Network and Kavitha A. Davidson a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about Sports. Then there’s Megha Parekh, Vice President and General Counsel of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Being a woman in a testosterone filled industry is tough enough and being a South Asian woman is even tougher. There are a countless number of incidents where South Asian women are criticized for being in the industry. For instance, not too long ago Kinkhabwala was covering the Pittsburg Steelers when they played the Miami Dolphins on December 8, 2013 and received a racist remark on Twitter.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) December 9, 2013
Then just recently Priyanka Chopra talked about her thoughts on receiving racist remarks for being the opening act for NFL Thursday Night Football. Although this is nothing new in the industry, these are the obstacles that all women have to overcome no matter what race or nationality they are. But, what’s being done to make sure South Asian women overcome these hardships?
There’s also overcoming those hardships that start at home. Many of you may remember the movie, Bend It Like Beckham a story in which a young South Asian female had aspirations of being a soccer player but her parents wanted her to go to school and get married instead of going to college on a soccer scholarship. Our reality isn’t like a movie but the expectations to succeed in school, be a good wife, and good mother overshadow the path to follow one’s dream. How can these girls and young women in school get through these obstacles? Parents and families need to understand the value and impact young women can have in this industry.
What about the next generation? More and more South Asian women have an interest of being in the sporting industry. There are young girls out there who look up to individuals like Mirza and Kinkhabwala. They want to be an athlete or in journalism or be an agent. The “pay it forward” model needs to happen, these girls and young women looking to get into the industry and women who are already in the industry need a support network, a community to be a part of. Being able to relate to someone can always help in achieving success and building relationships can drive that process. To start building a community a South Asian women in sports Twitter chat will be on the second Wednesday of each month beginning February 12 from 8 to 9 PM EST. Join the conversation and follow along with the #SAWSports hashtag.