Expansion of Gender Equality in the Olympics
“You have to believe in yourself when no one else does –that makes you a winner right there.” –Venus Williams, gold medalist in tennis in 2008 and 2000
If you once sported a “Dorothy Hamill” haircut in your youth or took up gymnastics when Mary Lou Retton made it look easy, chances are you already recognize the far-reaching influence of the Olympics. The Olympic Games symbolize the strength of human spirit, patriotism, and dedication to attaining near-perfection in one’s craft. The Olympics, that golden muse, inspires us to train more, work more and dream bigger than ever before.
Since 1900 when Hélène de Pourtalès, a Swiss sailor and one of the first females ever to compete in the Olympics, won a gold medal for her part on the Swiss boat Lérina, women have branded Olympic history with their fiery, competitive spirit. Of the 997 athletes competing in Paris in 1900, only 22 of them were women.
The number of female athletes competing in Olympic events has grown exponentially with the support of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) dedication to expanding opportunities for female athletes. The Olympic Charter, Rule 2, paragraph 7, states that, “The IOC’s role is to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women.” And since 1991, all new sports introduced at the Olympic Games must have both male and female components.
The IOC’s commitment to gender equality reaches far past the participation of female athletes. Their goals include the proliferation of women in sports administration roles. The IOC created the Women in Sports Working Group in 1995, which became a full Commission in 2004. The Commission “advises the IOC President and the Executive Board on which policies to adopt in order to increase female participation in sport at all levels,” according to IOC. Their mission includes education and training for women in sports. Kudos to the IOC for recognizing the need to inspire and encourage young girls to embrace the work ethic required to win gold and to win in life.
How can we harness the golden muse in our daily lives for longer than the two-week stretch of the Games themselves? We can contribute to the goals of gender equality in sports in our communities and we can let Olympic wisdom inspire our daily lives.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, although Title IX expressly prohibits discrimination based on sex in sports, “schools across the country are still not providing equal opportunities for girls to participate in sports and are not treating girls’ teams equally in terms of benefits and resources.” Insufficient funding creates a barrier to sports for girls and young women. Investigate your community; start a petition for additional women’s sports (www.Change.org has one here), fight for additional funding for women’s sports, or volunteer to coach a sport that you played and teach skills and competitive spirit to future Olympians.
Whether or not young women go forward to compete in the Olympics or win gold medals, they will carry the flame to train more, work harder and dream bigger with them the rest of their lives. As successful executives, we owe it to the next generation to inspire them to go for the gold.
Female Olympians inspire us with their sheer fortitude. Who could forget Michelle Kwan skating to “Fields of Gold” and the indelible mark she left on the figure skating world. The gold medal eluded her mutiple times, but she pushed on to win a silver medal in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, a bronze medal in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and five World Championships. Kwan proved the journey is more important than the destination.
At Sochi, the U.S. Olympic team’s female contingency includes powerhouses like Lolo Jones in bobsled, Mikaela Shiffrin in skiing, Kelly Clark in women’s snowboard and figure skater, Gracie Gold, who even with “gold” in her name is not assure a gold medal win. Rather than lamenting your long-lost dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast, let Olympic wisdom inspire you and nudge you forward in your professional life:
1. Focus on your goals; a goal is a dream with a plan.
2. Don’t become discouraged when you don’t achieve your goal immediately.
3. Push yourself a little further each day.
4. Believe in yourself.
Photos: Olympic Committee6
TAGS: inspiration leadership Olympics