International women's day 2021 just concluded and we were all reminded of the struggles, sacrifices that women make to achieve the success they achieve and yet in some cases the success is not their own. Sports is by far the most male-dominated sector right now. Be it on the field or off it, it's the men who matter. Men’s games have all the money, have the most viewership, and almost all the key decision-makers are men.
Despite all this, there are a few women within sports who make a difference. They matter, they rake in numbers, and their stories inspire a whole new generation of women to enter this world of sports. And also, they engage with the community that has grown around them, their fans.
Serena Williams has been the face of women athletes (not just tennis) for over 2 decades now. She has been a powerhouse, she has won it all, she is loved by tennis fans across the globe and even brands love her. I doubt there is hardly a person with access to a screen and internet who doesn’t know who Williams is. She’s 39 with a 26 year and counting long professional career with her first major title coming in 1999. Since then she has won 23 Grand Slam Titles, 14 Grand Slam Doubles titles with sister Venus and 4 Olympic gold medals. If that wasn’t enough, she even won the 2017 Australian Open while she was 2 months pregnant.
Judged on her personal star power and visibility alone, Russian tennis pro Maria Sharapova is not just one of the top women in the sport—she's in the conversation about who rules the sport, period. Sharapova has built a brand and marketing empire on the strength of winning a career Grand Slam (the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon) and her stunning good looks. Sharapova's rare confluence of beauty, talent and charisma always makes her a top draw at tournaments and a woman with no shortage of corporate suitors. What elevates her above similar athletes who've leveraged their position to score endorsements or even develop their own product line is that Sharapova pairs natural ease in the role with razor-sharp savvy.
Billie Jean King
There are legends, and then there is Billie Jean King. The American tennis champion slash equality advocate, who won a whopping 39 Grand Slam championships in her career, deserves her own category of greatness. In 1973, King prevailed in the historic "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match against self-described male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs, a victory that went a long way toward upending the idea that female athletes aren’t just as tough as men. That same year she organized a meeting that led to the creation of the Women’s Tennis Association and threatened to boycott the 1973 U.S. Open if men and women winners were not paid the same. The ultimatum worked: Later that year the U.S. Open became the first major tennis tournament to offer equal prize money. In the time since, King, now 76, has continued to break barriers and push the envelope on equality. In 2014 she founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, which promotes diverse and inclusive leadership. And as one of the first athletes to be publicly outed, King has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.
Alex Morgan is the co-captain for the United States Women's Soccer Team and won her second consecutive FIFA World Cup championship in 2019. She debuted in the World Cup in 2011, where the team won silver. In 2012, Morgan recorded 28 goals and 21 assists to become the second American woman to score 20 goals and 20 assists in the same calendar year alongside Mia Hamm. She was also the sixth and youngest US player to score 20 goals in a single year. Since being named to the senior US team in 2019, Morgan has accumulated 169 caps and 107 goals. She was also one of the first women's soccer players to appear on the cover of a FIFA video game. Off the field, Morgan is part of the US soccer women fighting for equal pay.
Naomi Osaka was crowned the world's most marketable athlete in 2019. That is especially remarkable, because those rankings are usually dominated by men. LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt. The biggest superstars are historically almost always Men. And they have the biggest paychecks. But this is about to change and Naomi Osaka is likely to be at the forefront of that transition. What really stands out about her apart from her sporting success is her personality and the way she carries herself. She has already broken records by earning the highest ever remuneration for a female athlete in a single year. And at 23 she has her whole career in front of her and this video tells us exactly why she might be the next Sports Superstar.