WomenSport International Newsletter
Global Voice of Research-Based Advocacy for Women in Sport
Message from the President: May 2022
Spring is a time for reflection and renewal, both individually and organizationally. As WomenSport International (WSI) continues to advocate for opportunities for women in sport in 2022, it’s important to balance self-care with the seemingly endless array of tasks at hand.
I have just returned from a mission in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. It involved looking at gender and good governance with more than 10 organizations, including national Olympic committees, national sport federations, and sport for development organizations. I am currently preparing reports while on a bird-watching trip in Presqu'ile Provincial Park on Lake Ontario in Canada as a jet lag cure.
We have just finalized an updating of a gender leadership study encompassing 10 countries in southern Africa. In the good news category, these governments have significantly increased the number of women in leadership positions compared to the previous 2014 study. Sad to say, football – the biggest participation sport in the world – remains low on female leadership and participation at 10 percent. That is the same percentage as in 2014. Maybe there is hope with governments taking the lead.
However, there are positive developments for women in professional sports. A new world-record crowd of 91,648 watched host Barcelona defeat Wolfsburg 5-1 in the first leg of their Women’s Champions League semi-final. And reports indicate that the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association will launch a new league in 2023 – featuring the top Canadian and American Olympians – with a 32-game schedule and an average salary of $55,000 per player.
Exposure and investment are important aspects of building up women in sport. News items like these show us that progress continues to be made, even if it is sometimes slower than we would prefer.
Take time out to refresh yourself – mentally and physically – as we stand up for the rights of athletes and vie to ensure that women and girls are full participants with equitable treatment in the sports world.
I wish you all the best as we head toward the summer months. If you have news you would like to share with the WSI membership via this newsletter, please contact editor-in-chief Lucas Aykroyd (firstname.lastname@example.org).
President, WomenSport International
WSI hosted two webinars in March and April. The March webinar was entitled “WSI’s New Generation of Game-Changers” and highlighted younger WSI members. The speakers were Maka Chikowero (WSI & MTC Educate A Girl Inc.), Aya Noguchi (WSI & S.C.P. Japan), Peri Sheinin (WSI & WHSV Sport Anchor/Reporter), and Marika Fukuta and Ayako Takematsu (WSI & The Japanese Bridge Women's Soccer program). They introduced their initiatives and projects on women in sport and shared their experiences.
We had a record-high number of attendees at the event, which shows there is a positive future for our young advocates! In case you missed it, here is a link to the recorded webinar.
For the April webinar, we invited Dr. Nadim Nassif from Notre Dame University – Louaize (NDU), Lebanon. He gave an informative presentation entitled “Global Analysis of Gender-Based Disparities in Media Coverage of Elite Sport.” An active discussion ensued afterwards, and the attendees enjoyed the experience very much. Here is the link to the recording for this webinar.
WSI was also one of the campaign partners for #DemandIX in the U.S. Some background: “#Demand IX is a campaign to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and to support ongoing efforts for strong Title IX protections and enforcement. The purpose of the campaign is to coordinate efforts to galvanize the impact of individual Title IX Anniversary projects into a one aspirational campaign that amplifies Title IX efforts and provides opportunities for public participation.”
If you have not joined this historic movement, please click here and sign the pledge, which states: “By signing this pledge, you are demanding to fight until the full promise of Title IX is real. Your signature means that you value fairness and equity for everyone. Your signature means that you will work to demand that our civil rights are protected. Your signature means that you demand all students be protected under Title IX.”
Secretary General, WomenSport International
Lending An Oar: Judy Geer Helps Young Athletes Stay Afloat
Judy Geer rowed for Dartmouth College before representing Team USA for nearly ten years. She made the 1976 Olympic team, experienced the 1980 Olympic boycott in Moscow, and rowed in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Throughout her career, Geer supported the next generation of athletes through coaching and mentorship. Today, she and her husband run the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont, one of the largest non-profit spaces dedicated to biathletes and cross country skiers.
You have been guiding young athletes for nearly 50 years. What have you learned from this process?
Coaching kids in sports is about so much more than sports. It’s about life lessons, responsibility, teamwork. Some kids use rowing to help get into college, while others use the sport to learn skills like communication and sportsmanship.
As an accomplished female athlete, how do you help shape the next generation of women in sports?
At Craftsbury Outdoor Center, a lot of our coaches are women. Many female Olympians train here as well. The kids in our programs are in constant contact with these Olympians like they are normal people, which makes me really happy.
Women’s rowing was added to the Olympics in 1976. What was it like being one of the first female Olympic rowers?
All of us shared the process of training hard and making a commitment to our sport. Because we were women, we had to undergo gender testing. It bugged me because it felt like they didn’t trust that someone could be strong and female.
Your team did not compete during the Olympic boycott in 1980. Do you use that experience to help modern athletes deal with the uncertainty of the pandemic?
Absolutely. I tell every athlete that they need to enjoy the experience of training. It needs to be their passion because at the end of the day, anything can happen… an injury, a boycott, or a pandemic. You don’t have ultimate control of where you will end up, so you need to enjoy the hard work.
Both of your daughters were athletes at Dartmouth before competing for Team USA. How have professional sports evolved since your career?
There is more equality today but there is still a long way to go. The Olympic Games have become very commercialized and this puts pressure on our athletes. I have benefitted from being an Olympian. It gives you power, but it also gives your responsibility to help in the right ways. To make a difference for our kids, for our environment, and for our sports.
You and your husband also operate Concept2, which makes training equipment for rowers, bikers, and skiers. You are changing the game in multiple sports.
Concept2 designed its first indoor rower in 1981. Now, we have close to 70 people on our team and we’re doing a ton of outreach with our products. We are trying to distribute our equipment to inner-city programs to attract a diverse population of athletes. We’re an international company and we’re serving people all over the world.
Story by WSI Newsletter assistant editor Peri Sheinin
In the Media
New York Times: How Women’s Sports Teams Got Their Start