WSF 50

Cheers to our Madam Presidents!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”

How true; and yet, 50 years ago when the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) was founded by sports icon and social justice pioneer Billie Jean King, women were expected to be happy with the crumbs they were given. That was a sentiment that King was determined to change through the Foundation, making WSF one of the first “places” where women’s voices were both valued and respected by providing a platform for women to draw from their lived experiences as athletes to help lead and champion the entire women’s sports ecosystem.

That’s why, for the past five decades, we have uplifted Game Changers – women persistently challenging the status quo – to serve as WSF Presidents. To date, 21 barrier-breaking women athletes have been voted into the role, including our very first president, two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming and member of multiple Halls of Fame, Donna de Varona, and our current president, Paralympian and world record holder in Track & Field, Scout Bassett. Each uses their platform throughout their term to propel our mission forward, while shedding light on the persistent disparities women face throughout the sports landscape, including pay equity, disability inclusion, racial disparity, scarce media exposure and lack of support for mom-athletes, just to name a few.

Our ‘Madam Presidents’ have helped us grow and evolve throughout our 50 year history, and they’ve shown the world what we at the Foundation have known since 1974 – that giving girls and women access to sport is not only transformative for them, but beneficial to society at large because when girls and women play, they lead and we all win.

“Giving girls and women access to sport is not only transformative for them, but beneficial to society at large because when girls and women play, they lead and we all win.”

Don’t just take our word for it. We asked a few of our WSF Past President’s how sport has helped them lead and thrive and here is what they had to say.

  • Two-time Olympic medalist in softball, and the first woman to serve as an analyst for a nationally-televised MLB game following her tenure as WSF President, Jessica Mendoza says through sport she learned to welcome the hard challenges thrown her way, telling us “the harder the challenge is in front of you, the higher the payoff is on the other side.”
  • Three-time Paralympic gold medalist, who fiercely led as WSF President during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alana Nichols says sport helped her lay a solid foundation that allowed her to thrive in almost every aspect of her life, sharing that the discipline, teamwork, and resilience learned through sport empowered her “to lead more effectively, overcome life’s unexpected challenges and gain confidence through setting and achieving goals both on and off the field of play.”
  • And Olympic gold medalist in track & field, who following her WSF presidency, went on to become the president of FundPlay Foundation and vice president of Community & Impact for LeagueApps, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, shares that sport has helped her “be comfortable being uncomfortable,” while encouraging her to take risks and take on new opportunities.

An enlightening stat in an Ernst & Young study shows that 94% of women in the C-suite played sports at some point during their lives, proving that sport is building a generation of leaders; and, even if girls and women do not go on to become professional athletes, the societal and cultural benefits help open many doors for them beyond the field of play. Jessica believes that “leadership isn’t leading the people that are like you, but finding a way to lead those who aren’t,” which couldn’t be more true. Sport participation introduces girls to diverse groups of peers, teaching them to value cooperation, teamwork and how to work towards common goals. Benita says it best – “All of these outcomes are positive benefits of girls’ and women’s participation in sports, which is key to their success in life.”

“leadership isn’t leading the people that are like you, but finding a way to lead those who aren’t”

We are overjoyed to have our WSF President’s recognize that sport is not a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have” for all girls and women, and it is something that we all must collectively fight to invest in. As Alana shares, “investment not only helps level the playing field but ensures that every girl and woman, including those with disabilities, has the chance to pursue her sporting dreams at all levels of the ecosystem.”

For 50 years and counting, WSF President’s have been an integral part of changing the game. We want to thank them for showing girls and women what is possible when we collectively use our voices and platforms to fight for inclusion, equality and equity.

Cheers to our Madam Presidents! And, cheers to the next 50 years of continuing to change the game!

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