A seemingly innocuous tweet from Sports Illustrated staffer Charlotte Wilder about a vacancy at her publication Monday led to a tense Twitter back-and-forth involving her, former ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder and current ESPN personality Mina Kimes.

The messy exchange began when SI posted a listing for a job on its breaking-news team and Wilder offered advice to potential candidates, particularly female ones.

Seems innocent enough, right? Women are notably underrepresented in sports media, which can make the industry an intimidating one for young female writers. Wilder was offering the type of guidance that everyone needs and women don’t always get from male colleagues and supervisors.

Werder, however, found the premise offensive.

And thus began an increasingly chippy back-and-forth.

At a certain point, ESPN’s Mina Kimes decided to chime in, apparently thinking she might convince her former colleague that fighting for greater female representation in sports media doesn’t mean discriminating against men.

Her effort did not work.

UPDATE: Werder later attempted to rationalize his tweetstorm, claiming his tweet was meant to “advocate for an inclusive process.”

If Kimes and Wilder haven’t been able to get through to Werder, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to, but let’s try anyway.

Women, by all estimates, make up a disproportionately small share of the sports-media industry. They are underrepresented in the ranks of reporters, columnists, editors and nearly every other role in the industry. Despite what people like Werder might say, this is not merely a matter of women lacking interest in these jobs or having lesser qualifications for them. It’s often a result of either explicit or implicit bias against female candidates, of sexual harassment and sexual assault that drives women away and of preconceptions about which roles are appropriate for women and which ones aren’t. In a world where just about every female sports reporter, anchor or analyst has stories of overt sexism, objectification or even harassment, there’s no possible argument that sports media currently represents a true meritocracy.

So when Wilder tweets that she wants to help female candidates specifically, she’s not trying to bar the door to keep men out. She’s simply hoping to make the industry a bit more hospitable toward women who might otherwise be tempted to run away from people who secretly (or not-so-secretly) wonder whether they belong.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.