6 Trailblazing Women Currently Making History in Sports
They’ve defied the odds in a male-dominated space and deserve to be celebrated
If we want to talk about smashing glass ceilings, it couldn’t be more relevant than in the world of sports. What continues to be a male-dominated sphere, it’s hard to find women being celebrated in their respective athletic fields. Scroll through your favourite news publication, and you’ll find women's faces and success rarely makes an appearance. Something needs to change.
This makes shining the spotlight of influential women in the industry all the more worthwhile, which is why we’re ready to plug that gap in line with our Claim Your Seat campaign. From the swimming pool to the football field, inspirational women continue to defy the odds in their respective field, showcasing that with a dose of grit and perseverance, you can claim your seat in more ways than just one.
So without further ado, here are six of the most influential women making their mark in sports today.
Dina Asher-Smith is a 27-year-old British track and field athlete who has made her mark in the world of sports. Considered one of the best female sprinters in the world, she holds multiple British records and has paved the way into accumulating numerous international accolades along the way.
As a young child, Asher-Smith already showed strong signs of a promising junior athlete, who would go on to claim her seat. And by 2013, she struck gold in the 200 meters at the 2013 World Youth Championships before also winning gold in the 100 metres at the 2015 European Junior Championships. After years of hard work and training, she made her Olympic debut at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, reaching the final of the 200 metres.
Since then, Asher-Smith has gone from strength to strength, winning gold in the 100 metres, 200 metre, and 4x100-metre relay at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, as well as gold in the 200 metres and silver in the 100 metres at the 2019 World Championships.
But Asher-Smith is more than an athlete – she also uses her international platform to advocate for gender equality and social justice. She is living proof of a woman who’s successfully claimed her seat in sports, and has culminated in her being an MBE for services to athletics and was named British Athlete of the Year in 2019 and 2020.
Ronda Rousey is a former professional wrestler in America who began practising judo at a young age. Entering an undeniably male-dominated space, Rousey fought the odds and rose to prominence in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the early 2010s, winning her first 12 professional fights, most of which ended in the first round via her signature arm bar submission.
But what’s more, is that she became the first female fighter to sign with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and was instrumental in the organisation’s decision to create a women’s bantamweight division. Talk about a female disruptor!
Rousey never took a shy approach to fighting, and is renowned for her aggressive fighting style, quick finishes, and outspoken personality. Rousey became the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion in 2012, defending her title six times before losing to Holly Holm in 2015. She then took a hiatus from MMA to pursue other endeavours, including acting and professional wrestling.
In 2018, Rousey signed with WWE and became a dominant force in the women’s division. Winning the Raw Women’s Championship and headlining WrestleMania 35. She retired from professional wrestling in 2019. She has been a pioneer for women’s combat sports and has inspired a new generation of female fighters to claim their seat in wrestling.
Simone Biles is an American artistic gymnast widely regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. And she is no stranger to claiming her own seat, proven in the unprecedented number of medals and titles she has gained throughout her career, including 19 Olympic and World Championship gold medals as of 2021. She has also taken the world by storm, after breaking numerous records, including becoming the first woman to win five US all-around titles and the first gymnast ever to attempt and successfully land a Yurchenko double pike vault in competition.
Biles has been praised for her athleticism, power, and technical skills, all of which have allowed her to make her mark through incredibly difficult and complex routines with seemingly effortless ease.
Outside of the gymnasium, Simone has also been an advocate for mental health, speaking openly about her struggles with anxiety and depression and the importance of prioritising mental wellbeing. She is also a woman with philanthropic values and endeavours, using her platform to advocate for social justice issues such as gender and racial equality.
Pernille Blume is a Danish professional swimmer, specialising in sprint freestyle events, making her mark in by setting all-time records. A woman of grit and perseverance, Blume has represented Denmark at various international competitions, including the Olympic Games, the World Championships, and the European Championships.
She also elevated her international recognition when she proceeded to win her first bronze Olympic medal, in the 4x100 m freestyle relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
However, Blume is perhaps best known for her performance at the 2016 Olympics in the 50m freestyle, where she shocked the swimming world by winning the gold medal and setting a new Danish national record. Through her renowned positive attitude and strength, she became the first Danish woman to win an Olympic swimming technique.
Well known for her explosive speed and powerful swimming technique, Blume has also set multiple Danish records and has won numerous medals at the European Championships and World Championships.
Serena Williams is an American professional tennis player and internationally regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Growing into success and fame alongside her sister, Venus Williams, Serena has exuded dedication and strength throughout her career, winning a record-breaking 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 14 Grand Slam doubles titles as of 2021 – including the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. She has also won four Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles events.
Claiming her seat in the tennis world has come with countless powerful serves and her aggressive playing style, her mental resilience and ability to bounce back from challenging situations on and off the court.
But as well as being trailblazer for women’s tennis, she has been using her well deserved seat to advocate for equal pay and opportunities for female athletes. The self-founded Serena Williams Foundation, is also dedicated to supporting education and community development initiatives. She’s a woman who’s claimed her seat beyond the court – as a fashion designer, entrepreneur, and mother.
Lucy Bronze is a professional English football player who is widely regarded as one of the best right-backs in the world. The journey to claiming her seat began early, and led to a burgeoning career with Sunderland’s academy before joining Everton in 2010.
She made her debut for the England national team in 2013 and has since earned over 90 caps, representing her country at major tournaments such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the UEFA Women’s Championship.
Unstoppable on the field, she continued to stamp her mark in British football and beyond. In 2014, Bronze signed with Manchester City, where she won three consecutive Women’s Super League titles and two FA Women’s Cups. In 2017, she joined French side Olympique Lyonnais, where she won three straight UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and four consecutive Division 1 Feminine titles. She returned to Manchester City in 2020.
Known for her attacking prowess and defensive abilities, Bronze shows no signs of dwindling success. Bronze has proceeded to win numerous individual awards, including being named the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2019 and the Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2020.