On August 18th, 1920, Congress signed into law the 19th Constitutional Amendment granting women the right to vote. 51 years later in 1971, August 26th was designated as Women’s Equality Day, an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the great strides American women have made, becoming leaders in a historically male-dominated society.
Women’s Equality Day and Its Impact in Sports
Today the sports industry, once marked by its stark gender imbalance from playing fields to front offices, now boasts a roster of strong, talented and dynamic women who have broken world records and taken ownership of sports franchises. The enactment of Title IX in June of 1972 brought parity of opportunity to women’s athletics in the U.S. at the high school and college levels, with female participation in sports growing more than 900% since the statute was passed. There are many organizations nationwide that are dedicated to empowering young women to achieve their full potential by engaging them in sport to build life skills, forge healthy lifestyles and become strong leaders on and off the field.
Who we Look to on Women’s Equality Day
The Women’s Sports Foundation is dedicated to advancing the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity on a national scale. Their award-winning GoGirlGo! curriculum and sports education program works to improve the health of sedentary girls and keeps girls involved in physical activity by supporting programs and organizations that work with girls. Founded in 1974 by tennis legend, Billie Jean King, it’s no wonder this organization has had such a tremendous impact on the lives of young female athletes. King changed the game of tennis and the future of athletics forever when she defeated Bobby Riggs in the 1973 Battle of the Sexes, one of the greatest moments in sports history. She won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon and was named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life Magazine in 1990. But her achievements went far beyond the tennis court. On August 12, 2009 King became the first female athlete to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for her dedication to empowering women and promoting equality in tennis, sports and society.
King’s tremendous accomplishments, both personally and through the Women’s Sports Foundation, would not have been made possible without the commitment of the many women who fought for equality and finally won women the right to vote nearly a century ago. The women who fought for suffrage blazed the trail for those who followed and continue to fight for gender equality in American society. Great strides continue to be made in the sports industry as women are afforded new opportunities to become leaders, owners and stars in sports. Still a male-dominated arena, sport has transformed the lives of women and girls across the United States and abroad and will continue to play an integral role in females’ social development. Women’s Equality Day affords us the opportunity to reflect on women’s achievements across the various facets of the sports industry, while reminding us to stay committed to finding opportunities to leverage sport as a tool for women’s health, education and empowerment.