As time goes on, women’s sports are only continuing to prove their value. Female athletes are setting the bar high while inspiring the next generation. Here are my top five moments in women’s sports in 2022.
1. USWNT Finally reaches Equal pay agreement
It’s hard to talk about women’s sports without mentioning the pay gap, and after over three years of litigation, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team reached an agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation where they will be paid and treated identically to the men’s team! Highlights of the new agreement include equal pay for all games/appearances, an equal spit pool of all World Cup money from the men’s and women’s teams (already ensuring them over $330,00 after the men’s World Cup), and equal training facilities and accommodations. As the HBO Max documentary LFG shows, the fight for equal pay was anything but easy, but it sets the tone for the future of women’s sports as equal to men’s.
2. Serena Williams Retires
After 23 Grand Slam titles, four Olympic gold medals, and more accolades than could ever be mentioned, Serena Williams announced her retirement, or at least current “farewell,” from tennis. Williams’ last match was the 2022 U.S. Open where she lost in the first round of doubles (played with her sister Venus) and advanced to the third round in singles. She leaves behind a tennis dynasty, breaking countless records and achieving the highest honors in the sport. Her impact on women’s sports is unmistakable as she brought attention to women’s tennis worldwide and became the first woman to enter Forbes’ Highest-Paid Athletes list. Williams is often regarded as the best player the sport of tennis has ever seen, regardless of gender, and the legacy she leaves behind will be unforgotten.
3. 2022 Winter olympics
The 2022 Winter Olympics hosted the highest percentage of female athletes and the highest number of women’s events for the winter games to date. Among these athletes, many records were broken, showing the constant improvement of female athletes. The U.S. women particularly set the bar high bringing home 13 gold medals, more than any other nation. Highlights include Chloe Kim who won back-to-back snowboarding half-pipe golds; Erin Jackson who became the first U.S. woman to win a speed skating medal; and Lindsey Jacobellis who won two snowboarding golds. Winning over half of the United States’ gold medals, female athletes again demonstrated their worth at a global level.
4. F1 announces female drivers academy
Following the success of Drive to Survive, a Netflix show following F1, the sport gained a huge audience. It quickly became clear that the female presence in motorsports is few and far between. The lack of attention given to female motorsports was best highlighted by the W Series, an all-female single-seater racing championship, being forced to end early this year due to lack of funding. In the wake of this, F1 announced a new drivers academy focused on helping women enter the formula series competition. This will not only help secure more funding to help women advance in the sport, which is only gaining in popularity, but will also provide more opportunities for women to enter the highly competitive sport.
5. NIL deals and the Fiftieth anniversary of title ix
“Title IX” references the 1972 Education Amendments Act put into law where “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.” Since school sports are considered an “educational program,” this means schools from pre-school to college that received federal funding had to start treating women’s sports equally. While it’s something that’s constantly a work in progress, with 80%-90% of schools reportedly not in compliance, Title IX sets the standard of what women’s collegiate sports should look like.
The value of women in collegiate sports became ever apparent in 2021 with the NCAA, the governing body of division college sports, allowing NIL deals for the first time. NIL stands for name, image, and likeness, and essentially allows athletes to promote products/companies in exchange for money—similar to how your favorite professional athlete might appear in commercials or have an Instagram post promoting a company/product. Female athletes are highly competitive in the NIL space, with gymnastics and women’s basketball being the most lucrative. LSU gymnast Livvy Dunne currently holds the highest NIL valuation among female athletes at $31,000 per post, but she isn’t the only one to have found success. UConn basketball star Paige Bueckers, with over 31 million total followers, became the first college athlete to sign a NIL deal with Gatorade, while also doing deals with major brands such as StockX and Crocs. The University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team has also drawn attention, doing team deals (on top of individual player deals) where each player on the team has reportedly made north of $25,000. The number and amount of NIL deals that female athletes are making continue to prove there is money to be made in the women’s sports industry.
These moments just scratch the surface of the past year. During the year we also saw legends Sue Bird (basketball) and Alison Felix (track and field) retire, while new stars such as Erin Jackson, Livvy Dunne, and Olivia Pichardo (the first women to play D1 baseball) emerged. Brands and leagues are investing more in women’s sports than ever before with the NWSL, National Women’s Soccer League, announcing their desire to expand to at least two more cities. The WNBA is rumored to follow suit.
To help promote women’s sports and create more opportunities for female athletes, engage with the sports. Watch games from women’s leagues, follow your favorite athletes on Instagram, and/or ask your city for a women’s sports team!