This Tuesday March 8th is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater gender parity.
Today, in 2016, there are still people who don’t treat women as equals and who don’t value their contributions as much as men’s. Women are often not paid as much as men for the same work and are not always given the same opportunities- in the office, on the sports fields and across the world.
My teammates and I have even experienced blatant sexism on the field while playing soccer: Once being intimidated to get off a field that was rightfully ours and another time when a male player suggested there should be less women’s teams so those who really loved to play (men) could have more playing time.
It is my dream that you will never have to experience this ugliness.
Right now you are 3 years old and love to play soccer! I feel so proud watching you dribble the ball around the soccer field with a huge smile on your face just like mommy. We are both able to play thanks to the brave women who came before us who fought for equal opportunity and the groundbreaking legislation of Title IX.
Title IX stated that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
While it is mostly credited for creating equal opportunity in sports it set a precedent which created opportunities for women off the playing field as well. It opened up doors which were previously shut and inspired women to strive to reach their full potential and stand up for what they believe in.
When I was in school I was told I was too small to play sports. I admired the strong women who did play and the ones who paved the way for Title IX to be introduced. Most of my school reports were on the subject of feminism and equal opportunity for men and women. I’m sure my teachers tired of hearing about the same topic over and over, but I was determined to incite change.
Unfortunately, back then the word “feminist” had a negative connotation, often meaning “Man-hater” and the cause had a hard time gaining momentum.
Thankfully there is a new wave of feminism coming on because hating men is not what it’s about. People from around the world, of both genders and of all occupations are speaking out for gender parity and calling for a new mindset— one that calls for equal opportunities for women and girls and the elimination of ingrained biases— because that’s where it starts. There is building momentum as social media and blogs put a spotlight on injustices that continue and rallies support for change.
Female talent in sports, STEM and in the boardroom across the globe is only increasing. I am overjoyed that your generation will benefit from these strong female role models and the brave warriors which came before you and me.
Thankfully my own sports playing story had a happy turn of events. In high school I was determined to play soccer, to prove everyone who told me I couldn’t play wrong. I just went out there one day and it turned out I was athletic and developed a life-long love for the game.
Now, I have a beautiful little girl who loves soccer and for whom I have numerous hopes and dreams.
I hope that the example I set for you now as a woman, a mother and an athlete inspires you.
I hope that you will be free to pursue your dreams no matter what they are: sports, dance, business, mathematics or helping those in need and that there are no barriers based on your gender.
I hope that you will stand up for what you believe in and fight for the rights of others.
I hope that by the time you read this gender inequality is a foreign concept because it no longer exists.
I pledge to keep standing up for what is right and fighting for equality on and off the playing field in the hopes it makes a better future for you. I pledge to nurture you and support you so you may grow into a confident woman who stands up for what she believes in too.
Today, I’m giving you a heart and key to hang in your room to remind you to follow your heart and always work hard to unlock your potential as a strong woman.
Whatever you want to do and whatever you believe in—You Can Make It Happen.
I love you,