Gabrielle Douglas, Women’s Sports Foundation: How Investing In Women Changes The World

Olympic-Champion2012 was The Year of Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas.

She rocked the world of sports by gracefully competing at the London Olympics and becoming the first American gymnast to win team and all-around gold in the same Olympics.

Douglas’ journey to the top of the podium is not a story of privilege, but rather an example of what is possible when a community embraces a gifted athlete and is willing to invest in her future.

Yes, when we invest in women, the world does change!

That was one of the many messages from the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy, where the wealthiest people in America including Oprah Winfrey and Melinda French Gates spoke to their peers about the power of giving and investing in girls and women.

It is also the driving mission of the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), an organization dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sport and physical activity.

The WSF, founded in 1974, is the leader in promoting sports, health and education for girls and women. With Billie Jean King as its founder and ongoing visionary, the WSF continues to be an agent for change.

Specifically, the scarcity of funding for women in sports and its barriers to the success of female athletes is an area where the foundation continues to champion change. Year-after-year the WSF attempts to close the resoruces gap via its Travel & Training Fund, which supports gifted and talented athletes by awarding grants ranging from $2,500 – $5,000 to cover the costs of coaching, specialized training, equipment, and travel expenses.

Since 1984, the fund has awarded close to 1,300 grants and $1.5 million to women athletes in a diverse array of sports.

Last month, the WSF announced its 2012 Travel & Training recipients. Douglas was among the 23 individual athletes and three teams representing 18 sports who received the award. Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, submitted an application to the foundation before Douglas’ historic Olympic performance and off the mat achievements, which include an endorsement deal with the Kellogg Co., being named the WSF’s Sportswoman of the Year and the AP’s Top Female Athlete of the Year, and releasing a memoir Grace, Gold & Glory.

While Douglas’ financial situation and world-wide recognition have significantly changed for the better, one thing that has not changed is her humility and sense of gratitude. She decided to donate her $5,000 grant back to the WSF to help fuel the dreams of another athlete.

“I am blessed to be in the position to give back to other athletes and open up opportunities to them,” said Douglas to “I had hardships during my career and my road was not easy. If I can give them any help, then I am more than happy to do that.”

The primary corporate underwriter of the Travel & Training Fund is Gatorade, and the WSF is appreciative of its behind-the-scenes commitment to women and girls. In the future, the foundation envisions additional corporate sponsors joining Gatorade and giving at the same $100,000 level. Ultimately, the WSF’s goal is to transform the fund into a $1 million program.

“We think this is such a terrific program and the results are obvious, and they are measurable,” said Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation to

However, the Travel & Training Fund is more than just molding the next elite athlete. Olson explained that the WSF is committed to creating the next generation of leaders by providing access to sport and fitness to all girls, especially those in underserved communities.

In 2012, Douglas taught us that the next generation of women leaders are out there, and anything is possible if we dare to invest in their dreams.

Here’s to 2013 and the next female leader to shake up our world!

Good Night Sports Fans,


10 More Women Who Should Get A Green Jacket From Augusta National

This post originally appeared on on August 21, 2012

August National Golf Club finally ended its 80-year male-only membership policy.

Yesterday, Chairman, William (Billy) Payne, announced that its first female members will includeformer Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and South Carolina investment banker, Darla Moore.

There is no denying Augusta National’s historical announcement cracks the glass ceiling of gender equality, butwhat will it take to completely shatter it?

For decades the women’s movement pushed for this historic change. The debate intensified in 2002 when Martha Burk, former-chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, sent a private letter to then Augusta National chairman, William W. (Hootie) Johnson, requesting the club change its membership stance.

Johnson replied, “Our membership alone decides our membership – not any outside group with its own agenda.”

At last roughly 300 of the nation’s prominent individuals from the corporate, political, and sports worlds decided it was time to set an agenda that includes the other half of the population – women.

While the Augusta National membership list is private, it reportedly includes billionaire Warren Buffett, former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens Jr., and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Together Rice and Moore will make up less than 1% of the Augusta National’s membership. This small percentage mirrors the number of women who currently serve as high-ranking executives and CEO’s in the United States. For real gender equality to occur, women need greater opportunities within the business landscape. Or better yet invitations to the clubhouse will do.

Here’s a list of ten more women whom Augusta National should give green jackets…

1. Virginia M. (Ginni) Rometty, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM. In April during the 2012 Masters, many wondered if Rometty would be the first female member of Augusta National. Traditionally the club has offered a membership to IBM’s CEO because the company is one of the Masters Tournament’s principal sponsors.

2. Annika Sorenstam, retired professional golfer. Sorenstam is considered the greatest female golfer of all-time (89 career wins and 10 majors), and she is the first female player in LPGA history to cross the $20 million earnings mark. Along with Nicklaus and Palmer, Sorenstam is destined to be a golfing legend.

3. Christine F. Driessen, ESPN, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Driessen oversees all of ESPN’s financial operations. Recently, Driessen played an important role in ESPN’s broadband ( internet strategy and multimedia programming rights agreements for The Masters and British Open golf.

4. Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pepsico. Nooyi is the chief architect of Pepsico’s 22 brands, including Gatorade which is meticulously aligned with sports and generates more than $1 billion annually.

5. Marissa Mayer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo. Mayer is a young and talented engineer whose innovative reputation could rescue the floundering tech company. Her appointment as Yahoo’s 5th CEO in five years broke the traditional CEO mold, and can easily shake up Augusta Nationals membership dynamic as well.

6. Billie Jean King, former professional tennis player, co-founder of World Team Tennis, and women’s rights advocate. Jean King has won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon. She’s a champion for social change, and simply put a conversation about gender equality cannot take place without bringing Jean King to the table.

7. Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As a businesswoman and philanthropist, Gates is charting the course of the foundation’s pledge to end hunger and poverty. Gates’ association would result in the first power couple within Augusta National’s membership.

8. Robin Roberts, journalist and anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Roberts is a well respected journalist with an audience of roughly five million Americans daily; her reach would appeal to the Augusta membership and sponsors.

9.  Nancy Lopez, former professional golfer and businesswomen. Lopez rose through the golfing ranks despite facing discrimination based on her Mexican-American heritage. During her career she was named Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Today Lopez operates Nancy Lopez Golf, which specializes in women’s golf equipment.

10. Deborah Yow, Athletics Director – North Carolina State University and Sandy Barbour, Athletic Director – UC Berkeley. Yow and Barbour oversee athletic programs within the Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12, respectively, and they are on a short list of women who manage programs with automatic BSC bids. Intercollegiate athletics is a business that weaves its way into professional sports, which fits in well at Augusta National.


Is Today’s London 2012 Olympian Tomorrow’s CEO?

This post originally appeared on 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 (DrCondoleezza 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.

U.S. Women Make History At The 2012 London Olympics

If you have not heard by now, there are more U.S. women competing at the 2012 London Olympics than men (269 women and 261 men).

Title IX doesn’t exist on the international stage, but without Title IX most (if not all) of the women competing wouldn’t have had the chance to participate in sports to begin with.

Here’s ABC News’ tribute to the female Olympic athletes…


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Title IX At 40: Where Would Women Be Without Sports?

“Title IX at 40” conference hosted by the SHARP Center for Women and Girls, an interdisciplinary research center founded by the Women's Sports Foundation and the University of Michigan.

If you ask Laila Ali, former world champion boxer and president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, she will tell you that she knows where she wouldn’t have been – and that’s in trouble.

Ali candidly shared her journey to the boxing ring during a keynote address at the Title IX at 40: Progress and Promise, Equity for All conference hosted by theSHARP Center for Women and Girls and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Ali is the daughter of the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, and many would guess that she grew up surrounded by countless sporting opportunities. That’s to the contrary. Instead, she lived in a household that lacked the structure and as a result she made her own rules. This translated into bad grades, bad choices, and a three-month stint at juvenile hall.

It wasn’t until Ali turned 18 years old that she saw women’s boxing for the first time. Instantly, she was excited about the idea that women fought and eventually gathered the courage to get into the ring.

“Boxing shaped me into the woman that I am today. I never experienced what it felt like to play sports or better yet to win,” Ali said. “Where would I have been without boxing? I wouldn’t be me.”

Ali retired from boxing undefeated and has since taken her fighting skills outside of the ring. Today she has joined forces with the Women’s Sports Foundation in its battle to keep Title IX alive and enhance the lives of girls and women through sports.

Title IX and the Women’s Sports Foundation

Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments to the 1964 Civil Rights Act mandates that “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.”

In short, Title IX ensures equal access for both men and women in federally funded education programs and activities including sports.

According to Amy Berman, enforcement director at the Office for Civil Rights, US Department of Education, there were eight times as many men as women playing intercollegiate sports in 1971; and at the secondary level there were roughly twelve times as many men as women playing high school sports.

Billie Jean King founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974 to tackle these disparities. At the onset, the foundation served as advocates for Title IX and women in sports. It also primarily focused on making sure women had access to sports and that there was compliance with the legislation.

With the passage of Title IX and the dedication of organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation, there have been dramatic increases in women’s participation in sports. For example, in NCAA sports, women’s participation has increased sixfold since Title IX was enacted, and at the high school level it has increased tenfold. (Source: Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education)

Despite Title IX’s positive impact, the Women’s Sports Foundation continues to battle stereotypes and misconceptions about what it means to have women and girls participate in sports.

One of the most common misconceptions is that Title IX has led to a decrease of men’s participation in sports. The truth is that men are participating more in sports than they were 40 years ago.

In 1971-1972, there were 170,000 male athletes in NCAA sports. In 2010-2011, there were 253,000 male athletes in NCAA sports, which is a 48% increase. Today there are 191,000 female NCAA athletes, which has women at a 43% participation rate even though there are more women in college today than men.  At the collegiate level, men’s participation numbers continue to exceed women’s participation in both the raw numbers and the proportion to enrollment. (Source: Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education)

At the high school level, the participation numbers rose from 3.6 million in 1917-1972 to 4.5 million male athletes in 2010-2011. In 1971-1972, there were 290,000 girls participating in sports, and in 2010-2011 3.1 million girls participated in sports. However, girls are still 41% of the participation rate and the boys are making up 60% of the athletes. (Source: Office for Civil Rights, Department of Education)

The other myth surrounding Title IX is that men’s sports are being cut at the expense of Title IX. According to Berman, the government accountability office found that of the 948 post-secondary institutions that added sports between 1992 and 2000, 72% of those did so without cutting men’s or women’s teams. Berman and the Office for Civil Rights believe that the goals of Title IX can be accomplished without cutting men’s teams.

Title IX at 40 and Beyond

This year Title IX turns 40 years old, and participation in sports has been attributed to increased self esteem and academic achievement, and decreased pregnancy and dropout rates for women and girls.

Additionally, and the impact of Title IX has spread beyond athletic programs receiving federal funding. Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, notes that Title IX was never intended to create professional athletes. However, in terms of the participation and commercialization of sports, proficient athletes are coming out of high school and college, and becoming Olympians or professional athletes.

Olson has seen a positive shift in the coverage and marketing of women professional athletes and leagues like the WNBA. She believes that fans connecting and developing relationships with individual players will play an important role in the future of women’s professional sports.

Many women’s lives would have looked very different but for Title IX and sports. Dr. Bernice R. Sandler, senior scholar at the Women’s Research and Education Institute in Washington DC and widely known as the godmother of Title IX, said “Title IX is probably the most important law passed for women and girls in Congress since women obtained the right to vote in 1920.”

As we look back at the last 40 years and there is much to celebrate, and still there is much to be done.

Good Night Sports Fans,