Women’s Month Wednesday: 3 Record-Breaking AthletesBy Michelle Richardson
Mar. 17 2021, Published 4:55 a.m. ET
2021 is the year of the woman in sports. In February this year, Sarah Thomas became the first woman in history to officiate a Super Bowl. Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar became assistant coaches for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Brehanna Daniels became the first Black woman to be apart of a NASCAR pit crew.
For decades sports has been a male-dominated field from the players to the coaches, and even the sideline reporters, but every now and then, a woman comes along and gives the men a run for their money (no pun intended.)
Take, for example, one of the most extraordinary women in sports, the iconic Flo-Jo. Florence Delorez Griffith-Joyner was a track and field athlete who set the world record for the fastest time completed at the 1988 Olympic Trials. Flo-Jo completed the 100m dash in 10.49 seconds. Joyner’s records for the 100m and the 200m have yet to be broken. Joyner gained six medals at the Olympic games including three gold, two silver, and one bronze.
2. Simone Biles
Or what about Simone Biles? Biles is the most decorated American gymnast with a combined total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals at just 24 years-old. She’s also the first female African-American all-around world champion, the First woman to capture four gold medals at a single World Championships (2014 & 2015), and the first American woman in 23 years to win three all-around national titles.
3. Kristi Toliver
Kristi Toliver comes to mind when one thinks of women forging a path in sports. Toliver, a WNBA basketball player became the first woman in franchise history to hold a coaching position in the NBA for the Washington Wizards. As an assistant coach with the Wizards, Toliver helped the Mystics reach the WNBA Finals in 2019 for the first time.
The Woman’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has again scored A’s across the board for their racial and gender diversity in hiring according to a study from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) for the 16th straight year in a row.
TIDES issued an A-plus for the league’s overall racial and gender grades in the 2020 season.
“It’s definitely the standard among the pro sports leagues that we cover,” said TIDES director and lead report author Richard Lapchick to the Associated Press.
TIDES reviews five professional leagues including the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major League Soccer, and the WNBA.
The report card for the league showed numerical scores up from the previous year with the study pointing out that the league has gone 16 straight years earning at least an A in all three overall categories in the TIDE report card.
The league earned an overall 97.4 score, up from 94.8 for the 2019 report. That increase relied on a four-point jump in gender hiring (98.0), while the racial score climbed slightly from 95.6 in 2019 to 96.7 in 2020.
At the WNBA league office, women held 60.9% of professional positions, compared to 48.9% the previous year, ending a run of four straight declines. People of color filling 50% of positions.
Women also held 58.3% of team President/CEO roles, the first time they made up the majority of that category. Women also held 35 of 69 positions (50.7%) of team vice president or higher positions, the highest percentage in the history of the study.
Not only did the study examine the league for an overall score, but the league was also examined for positions at headquarters as well as at the team level.
“They have regularly moved the bar upwards instead of downwards,” Lapchick stated. “We see fluctuations year to year in all the other report cards. But the WNBA has been consistently in this exact spot.”
At the time of the study, there are only three women working as team general managers. According to Lapchick, the areas that need improvement in the general score for general managers and head coaches.
“At the WNBA, we’re encouraged to have had many all-time highs in this year’s Race and Gender Report Card,” league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “That said, we remain committed to continuing to be one of the most inclusive and progressive leagues, and will remain vigilant in our focus on developing league and team cultures that promote diverse hiring at all levels.”