Breaking Barriers: Women Empowering Themselves Through Sports



Billie Jean King

For many years, women have been fighting for the right to participate in sports at all levels. From the little girl who wants to play with her brothers in the park, to the amateur and the professional. Despite the phenomenal progress made by women in recent years, women face numerous challenges in the world of sports. We look at the challenges and discuss the importance of women’s participation in sports.


 One of the biggest challenges women face in sports is the lack of equal opportunities. Most of the sports programs and facilities are for boys and men, and women are often left out. The reasons are manifold.

  • Patriarchy mind set of men that believes women are unfit for sports. The very idea of women playing a sport is offensive to many people.

  • The misguided belief that sports requires only physical strength. People believe that the only attribute for success in sports is body strength.

  • People in certain parts of the world do not allow women to step out of the house for any outdoor activity. If they do need to step out, they are escorted by a male relative. This kind of mindset thinks that sports for women is against their cultural norms.

  • Sports attire is designed for comfort and ease of play. Some cultures do not allow sports only on account of the wardrobe required to play a game. Ex: Wearing shorts or a skirt for playing tennis. Western wardrobes are not worn by a certain part of the world as their society does not permit it.

  • Sports is a strenuous physical activity. Young girls are discouraged to play an outdoor sport as the constant exposure to sunlight tans their skin. In many parts of the world, a fair complexion is a must for getting married.

  • Society fails to accept the view that women can make a career in sports. Parents emphasis on academics and household activities for girls.

  • Lack of sponsorships for women athletes: All the big money from sponsors seems to be spent on male athletes. Few women athletes have made money, but only after global recognition. There is a lack of financial incentives and support for women athletes as compared to men.

  • Fear of sexual harassment: There are few women coaches and administrators in sports. The have been numerous cases of sexual abuse and harassment of women. Women athletes in their prime gave up sports for fear of reprisal and harm. There are hundreds of cases where the female athletes ensure the humiliation quietly. The case of the US gymnastics team facing abuse from their doctor is just one of the cases that came to the limelight.

Mary Kom

Another challenge that women face in sports is the lack of representation. Women are often excluded from the decision-making positions in sports, which means that their voices are not heard. This lack of representation leads to a lack of understanding of the issues that women face in sports and makes it difficult to implement changes that will benefit women.

The numbers are disappointing. It is difficult to make an accurate estimate, but women administrators are just 30% of the total number. This is heavily skewed in favour of the regions of North America and Europe. There are a few sports administrators who have given unrelenting support for increased participation of women in sports. Some of them are:

  • Billie Jean King: She is a retired American tennis player who won 39 Grand Slam titles in her career. She has been a pioneering advocate for women’s sports and gender equality.

  • Lord Sebastian Coe: He is a former British middle-distance runner who won two Olympic Gold medals. He was instrumental in making sure that the 2012 London Olympic Games had an equal number of men’s and women’s events.

  • Nawal El Moutawakel: She is a former hurdler who won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. She has been a strong advocate of gender equality in sports and served as the Minister of Sports & Youth in Morocco from 2007 to 2016.

  • Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI): The BCCI has been the pioneer in pushing for equality in pay and facilities to women in Cricket. In 2022, BCCI announced that they will pay equal match fees for men and women cricketers. This goes a long way in providing financial security for women cricketers.

The impact on women’s cricket will be humongous. Women have an opportunity to follow their dreams of playing cricket with an assurance of financial security.

  • The All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club and Tennis Australia: The bodies that run the Wimbledon and the Australian Open, give equal prize money to the winners in the Men’s and Women’s category from 2019.

The importance of women’s participation in sports: 

 Despite the challenges, there are many benefits of women’s participation in sports. It leads to improved health, mental health, and self-esteem. It promotes social inclusion, teamwork, and leadership skills. 

Women in sports benefit society. It challenges gender stereotypes and promotes gender equality. It can inspire young girls to pursue their dreams and break down taboo barriers prevalent in their cultures.

Here are some important strategies that can improve women participation in sports:

  • Create and increase awareness: Encouraging more girls and women to participate in sports can begin by raising awareness about the benefits of physical activity and sports. This can be done through campaigns, public service announcements and media coverage that highlights the advantages of participating in sports.

  • Equal opportunities: Same support level to both men and women athletes, from access to facilities, equipment, pay, and sponsorships will go a long way in increasing participation of women in sports.

  • Incentives: Offer girls and women scholarships, incentives, and recognition for achievement.

  • Mentorship Programs: This can build their confidence, help them gain insights, provide knowledge, and develop the skills needed for success. This can be done by pairing female athletes with experienced coaches and athletes for guidance and support

  • Promote positive role models: It is a powerful way to inspire and motivate them to participate. This can be done by highlighting the achievements of successful female athletes and coaches by showcasing their stories and experiences.

  • Address societal and cultural barriers: The barriers that prevent women from participation in sports must be brought down. Challenge the gender stereotypes, promote inclusivity and diversity, and provide opportunities to women from all backgrounds and abilities to participate in sports.

Despite the challenges, there are countless examples of women who have achieved greatness in sports despite facing significant challenges. Here are a few shining examples: 

  1. Mary Kom: She is an Indian boxer who faced numerous challenges in her career. She won a bronze medal in the 20212 Olympics. Her humble background caused her financial difficulties in pursuing her passion. She had to sell her mother’s jewellery to buy her first boxing gloves.

She faced immense societal pressure and gender discrimination but did not waver from her goal to be a boxer.

  1. Serena Williams: She is one of the greatest Lawn Tennis players in the history of the game. Her 23 Grand Slam victories hide the struggle she faced in her career She was subject to racist and sexist discrimination in her early days.

  2. Simone Biles: She is the greatest gymnast in history. She has 30 Olympic and World Championship medals to her name. She overcame the trauma of sexual abuse to scale great heights in the sport.

  3. Manon Rheaume:  She is the first woman to play in a National Hockey League (NHL) game. Her incredible journey in the sport was marred by heavy criticism and discrimination from her male colleagues and coaches. Today, she is an inspiration to millions of girls aspiring to play Ice Hockey.

  4. Archana Devi & Falak Naz: They are current members of the U-19 women’s cricket team who have fought extreme poverty to pursue their dreams of playing for India.

Women’s participation in sports is essential for promoting gender equality and empowering women. Although there are many challenges that women face in sports, it is important to continue to work creating a more inclusive and equitable environment for women in sports. By doing so, we can ensure that women have the same opportunities as men to pursue their dreams and achieve their full potential in the world of sports.


  1. Very well written and expressed. We all should have equal opportunity to follow our dreams and goals.

  2. quite nicely written, I wish all of our dreams come true some day.

  3. So true! Very well expressed. Good content for a parent! Every drop creates an ocean. Every positive piece like this paved the way for our kids.

  4. Very articulately put. Yes definitely there are host of challenges for women entering the sports arena that need to addressed - unfortunately for most women athletes the battle starts outside the ring even before their first match.


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