February 9, 2022
As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics kicked off this month, I came across an astounding stat: the International Olympic Committee called these Olympics the most gender equal Games of all time, with 49% of the athletes competing being women—a record for the Winter Olympic Games. I couldn’t help but to reflect on how much has changed with women in sports over the years. Sports have played a vital role in my life, which is why I can’t even begin to think of a time when it was frowned upon for women to compete. From the acceptance of women in sports to changes in uniforms (Norwegian women’s beach handball ring a bell for anyone?), the journey of women in sports hasn’t been an easy one.
Allow me to blow your mind… The first Olympic Games that women competed in was in 1900, and back then it was only 22 brave women who competed. Women’s involvement grew from there, but sloooowly. In 1980 only 26% of all the athletes were women, and as late as 2000 it was just 38%. Want another brain blaster? Did you know that Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run in the Boston marathon in 1967! And it was only because she registered using her initials. The race director tried to physically pull her out of the race because she was a woman. Can you even imagine?
In contrast to such hurdles, we can look to Wimbledon as a positive example of women breaking the mold early on. In 1884, 19-year-old Maud Watson won the first-ever Ladies’ Singles title at Wimbledon. Now we’ve had the Williams sisters crushing it on the court and pushing the boundaries, both in records and in tennis outfits. Not to mention the evolution of new roles for women in the sports arena, like refereeing and broadcasting. So, see, progress is key!
I’m thankful for the women who stood up for what was important. From the first women to enter these competitions to even the pioneers of women in business and those fighting for political and social rights, each one set a different tone, eventually bringing light to topics that had remained in the dark. Along the way they took things a step further, and then another step further, paving the way for future generations. Kind of like how my older sister had a curfew of 10 p.m., and then it became 11 p.m. for me, and by the time our youngest sister was old enough she could just do whatever she wanted, ha!
There’s always further to go, but those before us have made it easier for us to keep carrying their efforts to the next level, and we will do exactly that.