Michele Tafoya: A Woman Dominating in a Man's World

by ModernMom Staff

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ModernMom was honored and delighted to interview Michele Tafoya, one of the few successful female sports reporters. She's interviewed everyone who is anyone in the sports arena - and she does it with ease and grace. We asked her about the challenges of being a female in a male-dominated field, and about how her career shifted when she became a mom. Read on for her inspiring and insightful comments:

MM: You've had a lot of great reporting and announcing jobs. What has been your favorite thus far?

MT: My television experiences have all be wonderful. Covering the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, were both amazing opportunities. But I'd have to say my favorite assignment has been Monday Night Football. The chance to be part of television's most iconic sports show has been a privilege. I've worked with some of the best announcers in the business, including Al Michaels and John Madden. The team camaraderie that exists on our announcing crews has been truly special.

MM: Has it been difficult to be one of the few successful women in the sports world?

MT: It's been challenging and trying at times. Women in this industry face a sort of scrutiny that most male sportscasters do not. Because of that, I worked extremely hard to be more prepared than everyone else. I studied and researched until I was blue in the face!
But from the very beginning I determined to look at myself as a sports reporter -- not a female sports reporter. My attitude was that I would compete with every sports reporter, not just the women. I think that helped me a great deal.

MM: Have you been treated differently during your career because you're a woman? Has it given you an advantage or disadvantage?

MT: The short answer is, "Yes." I began my career in 1993, and there weren't that many women in the field yet. There have been advantages and disadvantages. I think some athletes and coaches were probably extra considerate in dealing with women. At the same time, I have experienced sexist attitudes from some people. But the advantage was that there weren't that many women in the field when I began, and there were opportunities opening up for women. The timing was good.

MM: How do you balance motherhood and a booming career? How has motherhood impacted your career?

MT: Balancing family with career is every working mom's struggle. By the time I got married I was 35, and my window for childbearing was closing. After losing four babies to miscarriage, my husband and I were losing hope. Miraculously, I got pregnant at 40 and gave birth to my son just before I turned 41. That struggle to have children changed my priorities. And having my son made me want to travel less. When he turned two, I quit my role as the lead sideline reporter on the NBA on ABC. Shortly thereafter, we adopted a beautiful baby girl from Colombia, South America. Our family is complete, and I don't want to miss anything. I have continued to work on Monday Night Football, which takes me away from home about three days each week during the NFL season. During the rest of the year, I host a news/talk radio show in Minneapolis. This allows me to stay home. And I love it!

MM: You took time off for your baby. Was this a difficult sacrifice?

MT: I missed a good part of my second season on Monday Night Football. That was extremely difficult. But it gave me a better understanding of why athletes get so frustrated having to miss games with injuries. But Disney/ESPN/ABC were wonderful allowing me to spend the first six months of my son's life with him! I wouldn't trade that for anything. Similarly, they allowed me to take two months to live in Bogota, Colombia, while we adopted our daughter. That was a phenomenal experience.

The biggest professional sacrifice I made was walking away from my NBA assignment. It was a plumb job that paid well. But my husband and I agreed that I was giving up too much of the intrinsic value I derive from being with my children.

MM: What advice do you have for other career-oriented moms?

MT: Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. Make sure you are living in alignment with your values. At the same time, don't let guilt deprive you of a career you love. I believe a mom who is happily engaged in a career makes a great role model.

MM: What behavioral trait do you hope your children don’t inherit from you?

MT: Bad posture.

MM: What's the best piece of parenting advice you've ever received?

MT: Choose your battles.

MM: Describe your parenting style in one word.

MT: Loving.

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