2018 was a momentous year for women in sports. We saw one of the most dramatic finishes to the women’s basketball Final Four in recent memory, and American women won 13 of our 23 Olympic medals in PyeongChang and also raked in another 13 at the Paralympics. The U.S. Women’s National Basketball Team won the FIBA World Championships, soccer qualified for the 2019 FIFA World Cup and hockey won its first Olympic gold in 20 years – leading to goaltender Maddie Rooney receiving the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year – Team honor at the 39th Annual Salute to Women in Sports. WSF also awarded Oksana Masters with the Sportswoman of the Year – Individual honor
While the excitement surged on the field, some of the greatest victories for girls and women this year were off of it. As we count down to 2019, here are the Foundation’s picks for five of the biggest wins:
5 // Pay Equality Achieved in Surfing
The World Surf League became the first U.S.-based global sports league to apply pay parity this year, announcing that it would begin awarding equal prize money to men and women at the elite level in 2019.
“It’s a huge deal,” three-time world champion Clarissa Moore told CNN. She noted that the decision makes a bold statement and she appreciates the opportunity to “be recognized on that level and to be respected as elite athletes alongside the men.”
4 // International Olympic Committee Resolves to Move Olympics Closer to Gender Equality
The International Olympic Committee made two announcements in 2018 that promise to push future Olympic Games closer to gender equality. The first of these came just as the torch was lit for the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. This big-picture initiative makes 25 recommendations that focus on “achieving tangible results to strengthen gender equality across the entire Olympic Movement”; with recommendations that span from avoiding portraying gender bias and stereotypes to growing female Olympic participation to 50%.
One way the IOC will look to achieve that 50/50 male to female participation ratio in the Winter Olympics is through its second announcement, which came out in July. The IOC chose to add seven new disciplines to the 2022 Olympic program that will allow for more female participation. Per the Women’s Sports Foundation’s research on gender equity in the 2018 Olympics, just 41.4% of athletes were female.
The IOC’s renewed commitment to achieving gender equality in the Olympics is a big step for the entire athletic community and will hopefully encourage every participating nation to prioritize opportunities for girls and women.
3 // Girls’ Participation in High School Sports at an All-Time High
The 3,415,306 girls playing American high school sports during the 2017-2018 school year reached a record high, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) reported in September. With nearly half a million participants, outdoor track & field boasts the most female athletes followed by volleyball, basketball and soccer.
2 // Paralympians in the United States will Finally get Equal Prize Money for Medals as Olympians
While this is not strictly a gender issue, the restructuring of the United States Olympic Committee’s “Operation Gold Awards” for Paralympians is too important not to include on this list. The impact of this historic decision will have an impact on athletes like 2018 WSF Sportswoman of the Year Oksana Masters who, after earning five medals in PyeongChang, will now be compensated fairly for her victories.
The expansion of the initiative, which was announced in September, is retroactive to the 2018 Games and places more than $1.2 million into the hands of male and female Paralympians.
1 // More than 150 Survivors Testify Against USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar
This list would not be complete without the moment when more than 150 former collegiate and professional athletes united in the face of their abuser. The moment was a victory for women in sport – not only because these athletes bravely exposed years of undocumented, systematic sexual abuse within their sport – but also because these women were finding their voice and opening a national dialogue so that other survivors could speak their truth. It was women standing up for one another. It was a movement that also led to a powerful moment at the 2018 ESPY Awards, when the group of surivors was collectively honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. And, in the context of the #MeToo movement and everything else that has been taking place in society this year, it transcended sport, and was another representation of the strength that women possess.