This post originally appeared on Forbes.com on August 9, 2012
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games is officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
However, 2012 games have been nicknamed “The Year of The Woman.”
Fifteen years ago twenty-six countries did not have women competing at the Olympics. Four years ago the number dwindled down to three countries. Finally, in 2012 for the first time in history every participating country has both male and female athletes.
For the United States, 2012 is the first time in its history that more female athletes (269) are competing than male athletes (261).
Today these Olympians are breaking world records and representing their countries on the largest athletic stage. Tomorrow they will break down barriers in the boardroom and use their world-class athleticism to make a significant contribution in society.
Why are athletes more likely to succeed and thrive in the workplace over their non-athlete peers?
It is because sports develops and rewards skills valued by employers. To become a champion on the field it takes discipline, confidence, drive, passion, and mental toughness. These same skills allow athletes to enter the workforce and lead others while engaging with a diverse set of peers (Betsey Stevenson, Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports 23-24 (Nat’l Bureau of Econ. Research, Working Paper No. 15728, 2010)).
Studies have shown that participation in athletics is directly correlated to significant long-term health, educational and economic benefits for women.
“When one compares people with similar educational opportunities, family backgrounds, measures of intelligence and self-esteem, the annual wages of former athletes are, on average, seven percent higher than non-athletes. Similarly, athletes get almost half a year more education than non-athletes,” said Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, Professors of Business and Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Moreover, according to Stevenson and the National Women’s Law Center, “An increase in female sports participation leads to an increase in women’s labor force participation down the road and greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly high-skill, high-wage ones.”
Ultimately, playing sports has a positive impact on employment outcomes and women’s economic security. A 2002 report by Oppenheimer/MassMutual Financial Group demonstrated this result. Of the 401 businesswomen surveyed, 82% played organized sports and the lessons learned on the playing field contributed to their success as executives.
The countless women using the lessons of teamwork, confidence, and leadership in the workplace is largely due to the long-term impact of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funds and ensures equal opportunity in education for all students, from kindergarten through postgraduate school.
According to the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), Title IX has increased female participation in sports exponentially. In response to greater opportunities to play, the number of high school girls participating in sports has risen tenfold in the past 40 years, while six times as many women compete in college sports. As a result, over the past forty years major gains in female participation in the area of math, science, business, and athletics has shown that girls and women have both the interest and aptitude to succeed in these fields – without detracting from opportunities for males.
Recently, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), espnW, and the Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) honored forty women who have made a significant impact on society after participating in a high school or college sport in the forty years since Title IX was enacted.
The 40 For 40 honorees included accomplished women in the areas of arts & entertainment (Ellen DeGeneres and Queen Latifah), business (Beth Brookeand Meg Whitman), STEM (Dr. Sally Ride), medicine (Dr. Dot Richardson), government/service (Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Dr. Susan Rice), journalism (Robin Roberts and Christine Brennan), and Sports (Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm).
According to 40 For 40 honoree Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young and #100 on Forbes Most Powerful Women, women comprise roughly 50% of the workforce and yet are only 3% of the CEOs in the United States. Brooke asserts that more women deserve to be in leadership roles, which will cause policies impacting women to change.
Through sport women have the requisite skills and training to compete in the workforce and become the CEOs of tomorrow AND today. Now women must be given the opportunity to excel and advance into these roles.
For more information about 40 For 40 visit the Women’s Sports Foundation or check out this complete honoree list (Appearing in alphabetical order)…
1. Val Ackerman – Sports; Collegiate Basketball; First president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
2. Cynthia Breazeal – STEM and Academia; High School Track, Swimming, Soccer and Tennis; Founder and Director of the Personal Robots Group at MIT Media Laboratory.
3. Christine Brennan – Journalism/Media; High School Tennis and Field Hockey; Award-winning print and broadcast journalist who is the most widely read female sports columnist in the nation.
4. Beth Brooke – Business; Collegiate Basketball; Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young and named one of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women.
5. Ann Cody – Nonprofit; Paralympic and Collegiate Wheelchair Track & Field; Director of Policy and Global Outreach for BlazeSports America. Member of the International Paralympic Committee’s governing board.
6. Ellen DeGeneres – Arts and Entertainment; High School Tennis; Comedienne and talk show host.
7. Jean Driscoll – Sports; Collegiate Wheelchair Basketball and Paralympic Wheelchair Racing; Served as the national spokesperson for the ASPIRE project from 2001-2003.
8. Nancy Dubuc – Media; Collegiate Crew; President of Lifetime Network and History Channel. Top ten in The Hollywood Reporter Most Powerful Women in Media.
9. General Ann E. Dunwoody – Military; Collegiate Tennis and Gymnastics; First female commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division and first female four-star general.
10. Lynn Laverty Elsenhans – Business and STEM; Collegiate Basketball; CEO, Sunoco, and named one of Forbes 50 Most Powerful Women (2011).
11. Tina Fey – Arts and Entertainment; High School Tennis; Award-winning writer, producer, actress, comedienne and bestselling author.
12. Julie Foudy – Sports; Collegiate and Olympic Soccer; Advocate for women’s and children’s rights, including Title IX.
13. Irma Garcia – Sports and Academia; Collegiate Basketball; First and only Hispanic female to head a NCAA Division I athletic program.
14. Alice Gast – Academia and STEM; High School Track & Field; President, Lehigh University.
15. Jodi Gillette – Government and Civil Service; Collegiate Basketball; White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs.
16. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – Government and Civil Service; Collegiate Squash; United States Senator and two-term Congresswoman from New York. Advocate for empowering women.
17. Mia Hamm – Sports; Collegiate and Olympic Soccer; Played on four NCAA Championship teams, two World Cup Championship teams and two Olympic gold medal teams. Helped found first professional women’s soccer league.
18. Flo Hyman – Sports; Collegiate Volleyball; “National Girls and Women in Sports Day” was posthumously established in recognition of her contributions to growing sports for girls and women.
19. Dr. Kristina Johnson – STEM, Academia, Business, and Government/Civil Service; Collegiate Lacrosse and Field Hockey; Holds 43 patents. CEO, Enduring Energy.
20. Jackie Joyner-Kersee – Sports; Collegiate and Olympic Track & Field; Ranked among all-time greatest female athletes in the world.
21. Michelle Kwan – Sports; Olympic and World Champion Figure Skater; Sports ambassador for Special Olympics, member of the President’s Council on Fitness.
22. Queen Latifah – Arts and Entertainment; High School Basketball; Actress, singer, author, and production company owner.
23. Kathy Levinson – Business; Collegiate Basketball, Field Hockey and Tennis; Managing Director for Golden Seeds, a national network of angel investors dedicated to investing in early-stage companies founded and/or led by women.
24. Ellen Kullman – Business and STEM; Collegiate Basketball; Chair and CEO, Dupont, and ranked as Forbes fourth most powerful woman.
25. Mary Bono Mack – Government and Civil Service; High School Gymnastics; Seven-term Congresswoman from California and avid advocate for sports and physical activity.
26. Dr. Sandra Magnus – STEM; Collegiate Soccer; Astronaut on crew of final Space Shuttle mission.
27. Linda Mastandrea – Law; Paralympic Track & Field; Attorney and leading advocate for persons with disabilities; member, legal committee for International Paralympic Committee.
28. Brigadier General Loretta Reynolds – Military; Collegiate Basketball; First female commander at Parris Island and one of only two active female generals in the Marines.
29. Dr. Dot Richardson – Medicine; Collegiate and Olympic Softball; Executive Director and Medical Director of the National Training Center.
30. Dr. Condoleezza Rice – Government/Civil Service and Academia; Figure Skating; Former U.S. Secretary of State and Stanford University political science professor.
31. Dr. Susan Rice – Government and Civil Service; Three-sport High School Athlete; Current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
32. Dr. Sally Ride – STEM; High School and Collegiate Tennis; First female astronaut.
33. Robin Roberts – Journalism/Media; Collegiate Basketball; Renowned broadcast journalist and anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and ESPN’s “In the Game with Robin Roberts.”
34. Dr. Irene Rosenfeld – Business; Collegiate Basketball; CEO of Kraft Foods.
35. Mary Shapiro – Government/Civil Service and Law; Collegiate Lacrosse and Field Hockey; U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair.
36. Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz – Academia and Military; Collegiate Sailing; First female leader of a US military academy.
37. Pat Summitt – Sports; Collegiate Basketball; Played basketball during the enaction of Title IX. Her success as all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history with Tennessee basketball team expanded recognition and opportunities for women in basketball.
38. Jill Vialet – Nonprofit; Collegiate Rugby; Social entrepreneur recognized as part of Forbes Impact 30 list for Playworks, an organization devoted to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.
39. Meg Whitman – Business; Collegiate Lacrosse and Squash; CEO of Hewlett Packard and former CEO of eBay.
40. Venus Williams – Sports; Tennis; Four-time Olympic medalist and seven-time Grand Slam tennis champion who helped lead a successful effort to gain equal prize money for women at Wimbledon.
Plus Four More Honorary designees include:
- Sue Enquist – Sports; Collegiate Softball; Former UCLA Women’s Head Coach and espnW Advisory Board.
- Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Law; Collegiate and Olympic Swimmer; Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation. Leading Title IX expert and advocate.
- Cindy McConkey – Media; All State High School Basketball and Track & Field; Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Scripps Networks Interactive. First female reporter to cover Southeastern Conference football.
- Kathy Payne – Media; High School Tennis champion and team captain; 2012 Chair of the WICT Board and Vice President, Content Acquisition with Cox Communications.