There once was a time when women were not allowed to play team sports, officially anyway.
After all, it wasn’t very ladylike. And, believe it or not, women were once considered “too fragile” to run the distance of a marathon.
Thankfully, times have changed – in a big way.
We now see women competing in virtually every sport, and taking top honors, too. We thought it would be fun to look back at how and when women have taken their rightful place in sports.
1893- The first women’s basketball game was played, but men weren’t allowed to watch. The idea caught on, though, and by 1895 women all around the country were playing collegiate basketball. Alas, in 1899 Cal and Stanford reversed themselves, banning women from intercollegiate competition.
1900- The new century brought women into the Olympics, with 22 ladies competing in croquet, equestrian events, golf, sailing and tennis. (Yes, croquet!)
1966- in 1966 Roberta Louise "Bobbi" Gibb becomes the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon. Gibb’s run in 1966 challenged prevalent prejudices and misconceptions about women's athletic capabilities
1972- It’s the law! Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which states in part,
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
1973- Are you old enough to recall who won “The Battle of the Sexes”? Tennis stars Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs played a tennis match watched by over 30,000 viewers (that was a lot back then). Billie Jean won, serving up a brand new future for women’s tennis. The following year, she founded the Women’s Sports Foundation.
1984- Eighteen years after the first woman ran the Boston Marathon, women were finally allowed to participate in the Olympic marathon. USA’s Joan Benoit ran away with the gold. BY THE WAY, it was also the first year women’s cycling became an Olympic sport. Connie Carpenter took the gold and Rebecca Twigg the silver
1991- FIFA sanctioned the first-ever Women's World Cup. USA’s soccer ladies beat Norway 2-1 to win the event. For their ground-breaking achievement, they were largely ignored by the press and public. This same year, the Olympics finally decided all new sports would have to include women’s events, which of course opened the door to ever-increasing female participation throughout Olympic sports. The 1996 Summer Games included women’s soccer and softball, and in 1997, women’s ice hockey was added to the Winter Games. USA women’s teams won gold medals in basketball, gymnastics, soccer, softball, and individual women won a variety of other events.
Back in the USA, not one but two women’s professional basketball leagues emerged. The ABL did not survive, but players were absorbed into the WNBA and the rest is basketball history.
1999- Eight years after no one paid attention when America’s women’s soccer team won the World Cup in 1991, the event was held here in the US. This time, live events filled NFL stadiums with spectators and 18 million viewers tuned in to watch the final match on TV. Perhaps not surprisingly, the WUSA professional women's soccer league is founded the next year.
2010- Move over guys. The University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team erased the record of 88 straight wins (held by UCLA men) by winning 90 games in a row.
2012- The Olympic Games held in London were big for women: 44% of the athletes overall female (4,847 in all) Every country represented included at least one female athlete.Women earned 58 medals altogether, half of them gold. By the end of the event, women had won more gold medals than men
2015- From 18 million viewers in 1999 to 25.4 million viewers this year, as USA played Japan in the Women's World Cup final. It was the most-watched soccer game in US history.
And this article from Cyclingnews shows the numbers from the new women’s Tour De France:
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) riding to victory at the Tour de France Femmes 2022 with a camera alongside broadcasting images to more than 5 million viewers in France alone on that final stage. If there was ever any doubt about whether or not women’s cycling could attract widespread audience interest, the official viewer numbers released by the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift on Wednesday have categorically laid them to rest. The finale alone, where Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) took victory atop La Super Blanche des Belles Filles, was watched by more than five million French viewers.
In total there were nearly 20 million viewers in France across the eight days of racing, with an average per stage of 2.25 million on France 2 and France 3 delivering an audience share of 26.4%, according to official Tour de France Femmes figures. Beyond, there was a reach of 14 million viewers on Eurosport and In the Netherlands, the average audience share tracked at a huge 45%. Dutch riders dominated the Tour winning all but one of the stages of the July 24 to 31 race and taking out a clean sweep of the individual jerseys, right from the yellow of the race leader to the green points jersey won by Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma). The women’s edition of the Tour de France returned this year after a 33 year absence, however on its reintroduction it was preceded by a blunt warning, with Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme saying that if it lost money it would end up like the women's Tour in the 80’s and die.
The audience interest in the broadcast of the Tour de France Femmes, along with enthusiastic roadside attendance and a strong response across various content access points – including 22 million video views on the official platforms and 2.8 million visits to the race website – seem a clear positive indicator of the success of the event. Across social media platforms, the most viewed video of the race was the final kilometre of stage 3, won by Denmark’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig who rides for French team FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope. The race was broadcast for two hours each day, therefore had considerably less time on air to accumulate the stage by stage viewer numbers than the men's event, but that still far exceeded the Women’s WorldTour mandated minimum of 45 minutes live coverage. It was also a quality of broadcast leagues ahead of the norm for women’s cycling.
There were 22 hours of live coverage of the eight-stage Tour de France Femmes on France Télévisions, compared with more than 100 hours of live coverage of the 21 stage Tour de France. Taking a look at how viewer numbers compared between the women's and men’s race, the Tour de France average audience on France 2 sat at 4 million viewers delivering 41.3% audience share, while the Tour de France Femmes audience of 2.25 million across France 2 and 3 delivering a 26.4% audience share. The peak for the men’s race was 8.4 million viewers for stage 12, which finished atop Alpe d’Huez on Bastille Day and the top audience share of 62.8% came on stage 11 to Col du Granon.
The peak of 5.1 million viewers and 45.6% audience share for the Tour de France Femmes both came on the final stage.
The success of the Women’s TDF got us to thinking about the mindset that breaks barriers...We found this article about tips on getting there….
Do not accept limitations.
Turn your story around and start with inspiration. Find your own place in the world and allow yourself to establish boundaries so that people understand where you are coming from and that you are not going to conform to their expectations.
Fight to unlock doors and walk through those doors.
Beyond those doors lies opportunity, not obstacles.Breaking barriers is an uphill battle, and it doesn’t guarantee big wins or uber success. But this uphill battle is worth the effort because it will allow you to look for hope and optimism.
Think about it as a challenge, the potential to be your best self.
And the hope is that generations that come after us will look to us to develop their own motivation and sense of being.
Do not operate with fear, rise to the occasion.
Here are 5 ways to be comfortable and successful in your mission to break down barriers and not accept limitations.
Unite People and Find Commonality.
We are living in unprecedented and uncertain times. During the pandemic, we have been locked inside our homes and subjected to Zoom to maintain our connections. Our world needs to be united. There is a commonality that can be rebuilt and reestablished in the office, especially as we return to work. However, commonality needs to encourage people to bring their perspectives to the table, so that business growth and success is based on collaboration, innovation, and importantly, creativity.
Learn to Win and Accept a Loss.
Winning is a huge part of business. In fact, winning drives us to be strategic, competitive, and thought-provoking. And fortunately, winning does allow us to smash the constraints of the box. But there is a flip side to be considered and accepted. We can’t always win, and we can’t be discouraged by the fear of loss. Loss is normal and it needs to be part of our thinking, especially when we are in the planning stage. Plans can’t solely be constructed for triumph because that type of perfectionism isn’t reality and can’t be expected. Losses bring knowledge, they allow us to face obstacles, and to learn to get up, even when we don’t want to. Challenges like failure are learning experiences, those that we teach our children to endure. We must employ that same mindset at work, ideas win, but they also lose at times. So, plan for change, for flexibility, and be able to pivot when things don’t go as planned.
Empower Yourself and Those Around You.
The greatest talent of a leader is to empower people. Empowerment and engagement are crucial foundational elements that can lead staff to greatness, from the top down. People don’t want to just be a number or be told what to do. They want to contribute, they want a say, and they want to understand how their destiny fits into the fabric of the organization. Inclusion, equity, and culture needs to be bred, in meaningful and purposeful ways, to enfranchise the work force.
Focus on Listening.
We put up barriers when we feel like we don’t have a voice. Because naturally we believe that if we’re not allowed to contribute or that we have to stay in our lane, that we’re not good enough or we don’t have a chance, so we shut down, and it becomes a no-win situation. As leaders and peers, we must listen to each other. The act of listening is where the magic comes from. Listening is our best chance at success, because all the talk in the world isn’t going to move the needle.
Live in the Moment and Plan for What is Next.
Although we do need to be mindful and stay in the moment, we also need to base our inspiration on the promise of what’s next. The determination of what’s next should drive us, whether that’s to become an entrepreneur or to support your organization. The simple act of planning can and will break down barriers.
Be brilliant and be authentically you.
“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect,” -Ronald Reagan.
And with that, we hope you are inspired this week and learned a little bit of how women in sport have really developed and become something incredible.
Be Kind, Do Fearless