Women’s History Month: Women’s Sports Foundation CEO, Kathryn Olson
Added by Greg Rappaport on March 9, 2013.
Everyday this month, Double G Sports will be featuring interviews from prominent women in the sports industry as our way of celebrating Women’s History Month. This project is in its 2nd year. Today we feature Women’s Sports Foundation CEO, Kathryn Olson….
2012 was a huge year for women in sports: Gabby Douglas captured gold in the all-around at the London Olympics; the US Women’s soccer team avenged their world cup loss by defeating Japan in the gold medal game; Brittany Griner led Baylor to an undefeated season and a national championship.
These achievements, coupled with increasing media attention from major media outlets such as ESPN, are helping to create a sporting culture that is more conducive to female athletics than ever before. This culture, however, did not blossom on its own; it has been helped along by women’s advocacy groups such as the Women’s Sports Foundation, a group whose mission statement is to “advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity.”
Kathryn Olson, the CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, took some time out of her schedule to answer some questions for DoubleGSports about the challenges that girls and women often face when getting involved with athletics, and the ways in which these issues can be ameliorated.
Greg Rappaport: What are the main goals that the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) set out to achieve on an everyday basis?
Kathryn Olson: The Women’s Sports Foundation is dedicated to creating leaders by giving girls access to sports and fitness. WSF has six major program areas including GoGirlGo!, a national curriculum and grant program reaching undeserved youth, The Travel & Training Fund, providing financial resources to help women reach their full potential, Advocacy, promoting Title IX compliance and influencing local and national policy on issues of gender equity, SHARP, the Sports, Health and Activity Research Center for Women and Girls, measuring the impact of sports and affecting policy change, and Public Education, driving awareness and engagement in female athletics. We also celebrate the achievement of girls and women in sports at our Annual Salute to Women in Sports fundraising gala each October in New York City.
GR: What would you say is the biggest issue that women who are trying to get involved with sports face today? What do you see as the solution?
KO: The biggest issue facing girls’ participation in sports today is access and opportunity. Girls and women have far fewer participation opportunities than their male counterparts—nearly 1.3 million fewer in high school and more 60,000 fewer in college to be exact. This fact, coupled with the elitism of youth sports and the decline of PE in schools, is a major issue impacting the long-term health our children, especially those in rural and urban settings. Research shows girls and boys who have a sports experience gain invaluable health, career and social benefits as adults. What’s more, research data in the “Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports” projects that, by 2020, twenty-seven percent of all schools in the U.S. will offer no sports programming to its students. The report, published by the SHARP Center (a WSF and University of Michigan partnership), is being used to bring attention to this alarming trend and to promote national policies that will expand opportunities for our nation’s youth, girls especially.
In addition to research, the Women’s Sports Foundation addresses the lack of access and opportunity through its on-the-ground advocacy work and sports-based youth development program GoGirlGo!. WSF’s GoGirlGo! program offers a national “get active” curriculum and gives grants to community organizations to assist in getting sedentary girls to become physically active.
Kathryn and former WSF president Laila Ali at the Foundation’s Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards gala.
GR: What role have sports and physical activity played in your life?
KO: Sports participation has played a pivotal role in my life since childhood. Being physically active helps me daily in remaining focused and energized. Playing team and individual sports also taught me the confidence to lead and to motivate others around me. Growing up I played softball; and now, as an adult, I enjoy hiking, cycling and kayaking. My absolute favorite sport is downhill skiing—it is a thrilling and challenging sport which I’ve grown to love.
GR: Is there a particular athlete that truly inspires you?
KO: Four-time Olympic Ice Hockey player Angela Ruggiero became Women’s Sports Foundation president this January. Aside from being a truly gifted athlete, Angela is a global leader and has a keen business mind. Angela serves on the United States Olympic Committee Board of Directors, and as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Angela sits on four commissions and chairs the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games committee. All of this while working toward an MBA at Harvard Business School—now tell me that’s not inspiring!
GR: If someone wants to get involved with the WSF, what is the first step they should take?
KO: We welcome the opportunity to inform people about our work. Here are a few ways to get involved with WSF and bring our mission to life:
1) Be an advocate and vocal supporter of WSF2) ‘Like’ WSF on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/WomensSportsFoundation, follow @WomensSportsFdn on Twitter and encourage others to do the same
3) Purchase a limited-edition Title IX Anniversary bracelet for a friend
4) Become a monthly or annual donor to WSF, and most importantly
5) Commit to getting at least one girl in your life active whether she is your daughter, niece, sister or friend. Visit WSF at www.WomensSportsFoundation.org to get involved or to make a gift.