International Women’s Day and Sport
We at the Welsh Sports Association (WSA) are thorough advocates of inclusion and, on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2022), want to particularly promote and encourage female participation in the sport and leisure sector.
With the well-documented mental and physical health benefits of an active lifestyle, the issue surrounding female involvement in a traditionally male-orientated world is a very important one.
And, while female sports are increasingly adopting global status like their male counterparts and governing bodies continue to do their utmost to foster female participation across the board, the various social barriers that prevent women from taking part in sport at grassroots level remain.
The mission of overturning the current situation and finding true equality between the genders in the sporting world is a sizeable one, but there have been, and are, some real trailblazers showing that it’s possible to achieve stardom on the field as well as making an impact behind the scenes.
Here is just a handful of the hundreds of inspirational women in the sporting world…
One of the biggest symbols in the fight for equality within football, Ada Hegerberg was the inaugural winner of the Ballon d’Or Feminin, when it was finally created in 2018.
Sport, and football especially, has a long way to go – but Hegerberg is evidence that progression is possible and is happening.
Who ever said Boxing was a man’s world? Definitely not Katie Taylor!
The Irish fighter (and former footballer) has emerged as one of the world’s most influential female sports stars, having transitioned seamlessly into the professional world after winning gold at the 2012 Olympics. In her 20 fights since turning pro in 2016, Taylor has come out victorious in all 20, earning numerous titles and awards in the process.
One of the most famous athletes of all time, Serena Williams’ success and longevity have been an inspiration for some time.
22 major titles after her first triumph in 1999, the American continues to pave the way for Tennis’ next generation, demonstrating the grit and desire that has allowed her to overcome hurdles in her pursuit of greatness.
Another recipient of football’s greatest individual honour, Megan Rapinoe’s reach and influence extends far beyond the world’s most popular sport.
The American has used her emphatically successful career to advocate for serious change. A leading voice against the presidency of Donald Trump, Rapinoe has always made the most of her platform to speak out against key issues, and was notably a pivotal figure in the US Women’s National Team winning a landmark equal pay dispute earlier this year.
Overcoming a torrent of sexism to establish herself as a hugely successful figure in the world of football, Karren Brady has shown that there is a place for women in the men’s game.
The businesswoman has consistently shown no tolerance towards the behaviour that has historically prevented women from pursuing careers like hers, with one notable example coming immediately after she became Managing Director at Birmingham City FC at just 23 years old.
Encountering a sexist slur when getting on the team bus, Brady sold the player responsible to a team two divisions below soon after.
She is now the vice-Chairwoman at Premier League West Ham United, and played a key role in the club’s move from the Boleyn Ground to the Olympic Stadium, where they are now thriving.
Representing women from Muslim communities, Stephanie Kurlow is currently on her way to becoming the world’s first Hijabi ballet dancer to dance in a professional ballet company.
Demonstrating that religious values and traditions shouldn’t be a barrier to ambitions, Kurlow is paving the way for girls from diverse backgrounds to follow their dreams.
Simone Biles may be small in stature, but her influence is gargantuan.
Not long out of her teens, the American gymnast already boasts a whole host of Olympic and World Championship golds as well as being included on the Time 100 – a list of the 100 most influential people in the world – in September 2021, to go with numerous other individual awards.
Championing mental health and speaking out against sporting atrocities, Biles has come through a childhood in and out of foster care and a youth career in which she was a victim of the US Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal to use her platform for good.