Yesterday in the first general session of TEAMS ’15, Fox Sports’ Jamie Little joined ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza in a discussion about establishing a career despite facing gender-based criticism. After the session, we caught up with Little, who talked about how the roles of women have shifted since she started out and her thoughts on serving as a role model for others.
What was the transition like going from supercross and motorcross to NASCAR?
Each transition was quite a bit different, but I took a stepping-stone approach, which was such a blessing. It wasn’t like I just jumped into NASCAR and fell on my face. I was prepared for it. But with each step, you have a bigger audience, more to know, more to understand, a bigger spotlight on you. So you have a bigger responsibility and more pressure on you with each level.
Do you see yourself as a role model for other women?
I love having the responsibility of being a trailblazer, showing that women belong here, that there’s no reason why we can’t do the job. I love little kids wanting to do what I do or being involved in sports in some way. I love that they have somebody to look up to and say, “I want to be like her.” I didn’t have that so I kind of just went in blindly, which wasn’t a bad thing. But it’s nice that kids have somebody to look up to.
How have the roles of women changed throughout your career?
I’ve seen big changes. Just in 2004, I was supposed to be one of the reporters throughout the buildup to the Indy 500. A week out they said they wanted to make me a pit reporter. That was a really big deal for me. It was one of the biggest accomplishments of my career. Now 10 years later, you see women covering any sporting event and it’s not a big deal.
Do you predict this momentum continuing for women?
Absolutely. I think some networks might put a woman in the role just to have a woman, and I don’t believe in that. I think we’re getting to the point now where they don’t have to do that anymore. They can put someone there because it’s the right person. So I think we’re at a point that women get an equal opportunity and if they’re good enough or the best, they’ll get the job.
What sport would you like to see women be able to break through?
I think baseball was a really big one. If you’re into MMA or UFC fighting, I think what they’re doing with women fighters like Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey is great because there are so many female fans out there, believe it or not. And racing—I would like to see more women like Danica Patrick with the opportunity that she’s had because there are some talented, fast females out there but they don’t get the same opportunity.
What is your one tip for the road?
Find something you really love and hone in on that. Get established there and then you could start to spread your wings and go into other sports or any type of television or whatever you want to do. Find something you’re passionate about because it becomes your life if you’re serious about it.