Women’s History Month is a time to honor women, past and present, who have made the world a better place. Women have always been present on Earth, but not always recognized. Women behind the scenes need to be seen. Toys, shows, and media portray women in certain roles which leads to a never-ending cycle of generations brainwashed into thinking women should only do certain things. The reality is women have paved the way for others for years. Women fought for others to work, vote, run and be seen. WHM is all about celebrating that freedom.
It used to be thought that women would literally die if they ran too long. In 1967, Katherine Switzer proved this wrong as the first woman to run a marathon and survive. We now know women are actually better than men at running longer distances. What other assumptions do we consciously and subconsciously make about women that are absurdly incorrect?
“The reality is women have paved the way for others for years. Women fought for others to work, vote, run and be seen. WHM is all about celebrating that freedom.”
In college I remember being constantly reminded that I was only able to run at a D1 school because of the football team. Even though our women’s volleyball and hockey teams brought in money, outsiders didn’t acknowledge this. We were made, as women, to feel inferior. After college I started in the sport of triathlon, which was paving the way for equality in race payouts. Men and women were paid the same at events, something that should not be a novelty. Although there was equal pay from prize money, sponsorships and contracts are where the majority of money is made and this information is sealed. No one can prove that men are making more money than women. I believe there are still plenty of ways to close the gender inequality gap. For example, in the Ironman triathlon distance more men than women are invited to race. We have come a long way since 1920 when women gained the right to vote, but we still have a long way to go before we see true equality.
I hope you will join me in speaking out and up for women’s rights in sports that need our help most: USA soccer and basketball to name a few. Join me in advocating for women’s rights through educating ourselves and others about gender inequality and through purchases at women-owned businesses. Lastly, make sure to watch women’s sports. March Madness isn’t just for men. Women are playing too. Make sure to fill out a Women’s March Madness bracket and tune in to all the games for exciting, riveting entertainment.
With your help we can break barriers in stereotypes.
Gwen Jorgensen is an Olympic distance runner and former professional triathlete. She was the 2014 and 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series Champion, was named USA Triathlon’s 2013 and 2014 Olympic/ITU Female Athlete of the Year and represented the United States in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, winning the USA’s first ever triathlon Gold medal in 2016. She has been an AFH Member Athlete for over 5 years. Learn more about Gwen here.
At Athletes for Hope, we believe in the power of sport to change lives. We know that by empowering girls to become leaders in society, nations change. When women and girls lead, economies become more stable, prosperous and peaceful. It’s one of the many reasons why we’re excited to celebrate the 34th Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), which is intended to inspire girls and women to play and be active, to realize their full potential.
Recently, we took this mission globally as we welcomed a delegation of 8 young Tanzanian women, ages 15-17, and 2 coaches to Washington D.C. as part of a two-way exchange program between the United States and Tanzania. In partnership with the U.S. Department of State – Sports Diplomacy Division and World Learning, we designed a program intended to empower women and girls in and through basketball by engaging in educational, cultural and sports-based activities. Some highlights from the trip included:
Participating in and watching local teams and universities including the Washington Wizards, American University Women’s Basketball, University of Maryland Women’s Basketball and Sidwell Friends High School Girls Basketball
Attending a service project to honor MLK Jr Day, touring the Library of Congress, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Capitol Hill and many of D.C.’s iconic monuments
Visiting Hendley Elementary and participating in PE class, working with students in the classroom and facilitating the AFH C.H.A.M.P.S. Leadership Curriculum after-school program
Speaking with female leadership and role models at Marsh & McLennan Companies and Girls on the Run
I have confidence because I know who I am and what I will do. I now see myself as a different girl that can bring changes to my community.
The AFH curriculum engaged participants in activity-based learning, discussion and reflection which ultimately culminated in action plan presentations intended to identify and address issues facing girls in their community, school or environment and develop ways sport can be used as a vehicle to solve these issues. Citing the fact that many participants were the only girls involved in basketball at their school, numerous action plans focused on encouraging and activating other girls to pick up a ball, join a team and in doing so, equip them with the tools necessary to become strong leaders in sports and life. In the words of one of our remarkable participants, “I have confidence because I know who I am and what I will do. I now see myself as a different girl that can bring changes to my community.” As seeds of change, our Tanzanian delegation planted a path filled with potential, resilience and reinforced our belief that by changing one person you can transform a village.
We’ll be taking a delegation of U.S. athletes to Tanzania later this year and look forward to continuing our push to activate women and girls to stay in the game!
In the meantime, here are some additional ways to get involved:
Celebrate NGWSD in your community by checking out these local events.
Using #NGWSD and #SistersInSport, we invite you to follow along and tell us why YOU believe in the importance of equal opportunity for all women and girls in sports.
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On Sunday, January 12, 2020 a team of ten Tanzanians will arrive in Washington, DC as part of a fourteen day female empowerment project to empower girls and young women through basketball and sport. This two-way exchange project is a collaboration through the U.S. Department of State’s Sports Diplomacy division in conjunction with World Learning and Athletes for Hope. During the fourteen-day inbound program, Tanzanian participants will engage in educational, cultural, and sport-based activities. Each activity on the schedule is in response to the goals put forth in this proposal, including increased leadership skills, healthy decision-making, confidence, inclusion, cross-cultural understanding, female empowerment, and youth development.
The girls will experience cultural, educational and sport-related exchange opportunities while in the DC area. The young women will participate in site visits to area schools, nonprofits, university campuses, cultural sites and engage in basketball and other sport-related activities geared to empower, educate and connect them to greater learning. Educational workshops will be provided to allow for cultural discussion, create shared learning opportunities and establish practical action plans to bring home to their communities across Tanzania.
In the spring of 2020, American players and representatives will head to Tanzania to complete the two-way cultural exchange. The outbound program will include cultural and educational visits, and trainings and workshops conducted by American participants to support sports-based youth development projects in Tanzania.
Have you ever tried to lean forward on a plane during takeoff? It’s a weird sensation. You know in your brain that the plane is moving forward, yet physically you only feel the gravitational force that pushes you back into your chair. As someone who flies a lot, I think about it often. The idea of acceleration met by an equal and opposite reaction. Basic science I suppose. But this time, coming home from France and the FIFA Women’s World Cup, I thought about this sensation differently.
On that seven-hour flight, I scrolled through my photos, taking in the amazing images from three different games. Seeing the United States and France play in Paris may go down as one of my greatest all-time sports memories. The stadium was packed with fans from both countries singing and shouting the entire match. Men and boys rocking “Morgan” and “Rapinoe” jerseys were on the edge of their seat while the Frenchmen sang “Les Blues” from the deepest parts of their souls. The energy was as intense as the game. And all the while, I could only think about what this game means in the context of a larger conversation: gender equality.
There was something about this year’s cup that felt bigger than the play on the field. Something more momentous than football. The wave of energy experienced during the Women’s World Cup of 1999 was mirrored only by the seismic equality conversations of 2019. But as the game has evolved, so has the fight. The 1999 battle for existence is a 2019 battle for justice. From lawsuits to sit-ins to the best player in women’s football sitting out of the World Cup, women footballers are demanding that the world become a more equitable place.
It was in that moment of takeoff out of Charles de Gaulle, that I understood what was happening. The quality of the women’s game is undeniable. The plane is indeed moving forward. But with that acceleration, there is an equal reaction from those in power to push back, to help women stay buckled up, to stay seated. Despite the record-breaking crowds, tv audiences, and jersey sales, women are still not valued, compensated, marketed, hired, protected, or promoted at the same level as men. We’re not talking peanuts versus pretzels. We’re talking peanuts versus caviar.
Through the gender equality program at Athletes for Hope, we want to accelerate change for women in sport. That’s why we partnered with Equal Playing Field and Football Women International to host a gender equality summit during the Women’s World Cup. We convened 150 of the most influential thought-leaders in the world to discuss issues facing women and girls that are often repressed or neglected on the global agenda. From gender audits to media coverage to safeguarding against abuse, we tackled the hard topics in an attempt to generate solutions to long-standing problems.
We kicked off the Equality Summit with two American legends of the game: AFH board member Julie Foudy and AFH athlete ambassador, Kristine Lilly, both stars of the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team. Coupled with Spanish Team Captain and Utah Royals professional team player, Vero Boquette, these three took on issues of visibility, media coverage, and the desire to unite federations, government, athletes, and coaches to radically transform the game for women.
They were followed by an incredible line-up of academics, coaches, and change agents, including former U.S. Soccer President, Sunil Gulati, to discuss the need for women coaches in the game. As part of this session, Dr. Leanne Norman and Dr. Donna De Haan shared new research on the experiences of women coaches as told by elite level coaches and proposed new solutions in the hiring, promotion, and retention processes.
“People in positions of power are hiring based on ego not objective criteria. They are hiring by virtue of who they know, and who they’re comfortable with, rather than transparent processes. But the problem with that is the sports environment is built by men, led by men, occupied by men, and managed by men. So what feels familiar is to hire more men. This is why we need diversity at the top to break the cycle.”Dr. Leanne Norman, Leeds Beckett University
We concluded the morning with an intense and powerful discussion on safeguarding of athletes and new measures of protection for reporting, transparency, and impunity regarding sexual and physical abuse. The session featured four incredible speakers, including HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of AFDP Global and Kelly Lindsey, the Head Coach of the Afghanistan Women’s National Team.
“Exposure is the only way to treat a problem. You have to bring it to the light, help people heal, and minimize future occurrences. You have to get the right people together and fight from all directions.” HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein
The afternoon sessions were equally as intense and impactful, starting with lightning presentations from Kelly Nascimento-DeLuca, the daughter of the great Brazilian football hero Pelé; Dr. Celeste Geertsma, the head Sports and Exercise Physician for FIFA; and Mary Harvey, the CEO for the Center for Sport and Human Rights. The presentations from these experts were followed by intimate break-out discussions on the topics presented, which included media portrayal, female physiology, and human rights.
“I used to think as a woman that if I put my head down and did a good job, I would earn the next opportunity or acknowledgement based on merit. But what I’ve come to understand over the course of thirty-plus years is that unless we lift our heads and use our voice as women, we’ll never have a groundswell of change. That if we continue to play a man’s game by women’s rules, we’ll never get there.” Dr. Celeste Geertsma
The afternoon sessions concluded with two additional panels: professionalization and commercialization of the game and advancing women decision-makers. Becca Roux, Executive Director of the USWNT Players Association along with Ed Ramsden, Director of Lewes FC, led discussion on the growth of the women’s game, along with Sally Horrox of Y Sport and Tatjana Haenni, Head of the Swiss Women’s Football FA. The panel openly discussed the rise and fall of women’s professional leagues, the imbalance in financial and media investment, and the undeniable momentum of women’s sports as the single biggest growth market in the current sports landscape.
“Everyone always wants to talk about revenue. Revenue is an output. We need inputs. We need investment in the women’s game at a priority level if we want real return on that investment.” Becca Roux, Director of the USWNT Players Association
The final panel featured Moya Dodd, former FIFA Executive Committee and Australian National Team Captain, as well as James Johnson of City Football Group and Ebru Koksal, consultant for FIFA and UEFA. Panelists discussed thought-provoking ideas around token females in power, the importance of gender audits and/or quotas, and the need for more than one woman at the top to produce visible change.
“As the first female Executive Board Member of any international football regulator (European Club Association), I had to make myself the most knowledgeable person in the room. I had to work harder than anyone else and make myself indispensable. That was the only way to keep my seat.” Ebru Koksal, Chair of Football Women International
Before the US WNT earned its fourth star and before Rapinoe took to the streets of New York with a microphone and sunnies, there was the momentum of our day to remind us that the plane is indeed going forward. We are making progress. The resistance will only last a little while because the inevitable is happening. The plane will fly. But until then, we must not be shy to ask for the caviar, as a mere acceptance of peanuts makes for a long flight.
On July 5, 2019, over 100 of the world’s most influential thought-leaders in women’s football will gather in Lyon ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final to discuss the most pressing issues for women in football and advance creative solutions.
This one-day summit will convene thought leaders, policy-makers and legends to share new thinking on old problems. By placing high-level industry knowledge, lived experience and a passion for progress in the same room, the Equality Summit will tackle the difficult and neglected topics facing women in football. It will generate solutions that will inspire and equip change makers around the world to accelerate the transition to gender equality. If you’d like to follow along, tune in via our social media channels where we’ll be posting all week long!
It’s Pride Month – a month to celebrate diversity, inclusion and shine a light on the struggles that the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered, Queer community faces to this day. We asked our athlete community what Pride Month means to them and Layshia Clarendon stepped up to share their story.
Selected #9 overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft, WNBPA First Vice President Layshia Clarendon currently plays for the New York Liberty. Layshia captured gold with Team USA in the 2018 FIBA World Championships, was named a WNBA All Star and lead the league in total assists for the 2017 season. In the off-season, you can find them on the sidelines providing color commentary for the Pac-12 Network and the NBA. Clarendon is a noted social advocate, speaker and writer, who is often asked to lend their voice and opinions on various social topics. Here are their thoughts on what Pride Month means to them.
“I remember wanting to paint a rainbow on my shoe in college. I was told that it would hurt my brand and I shouldn’t draw attention to myself that way. I did it anyway.
So many of us have had to overcome being told to hide who we are by people we loved and respected. Despite the array of rainbow products and business advertisements we will see during Pride month, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Being a queer person still puts you at risk for violence, harassment, and bullying. It’s still difficult to navigate workplaces, religious spaces, and to find community. As a queer black woman, I live at the intersections of being a woman, being black and being gay. In society, we haven’t done a good job of integrating our fight for social justice to include the people who fall into multiple categories of marginalization. We have seen the queer community as a whole not stand up for issues affecting the black community and we have seen the black community not embrace their queer peers. I often ask myself, where do I fall in all of this? What side do I choose when both are at odds? Do I decide to just be queer today and black tomorrow?
That is why if we want to be activists, social justice oriented, good allies or even just good people, we MUST make sure we approach the work through an intersectional lens. It’s why we have to show up for each other and especially for the folks who live on the margins of society. It’s why I fight hard and try to speak out with and for black trans women. They have 3 layers of oppression working against them. Being trans, black, and a woman. Pick any one of those and violence is often lurking too close to home.
My hope for the future is that we are willing to look ourselves in the mirror and ask the hard questions about where our blind spots are. My hope is that we are willing to be wrong, to grow, to change, to be uncomfortable. I hope we are willing to learn. My biggest hope is that we will fight for the people who are the most marginalized and the most different from ourselves – if we do that, we protect ourselves in the end.
As athletes, we know how to come together and work towards a common goal despite a multitude of backgrounds and differences. It’s what makes sports so special. I believe that same attitude can truly make our world a place where people are loved, valued, have equal rights, and can belong and are safe to live freely.”