American women athletes beat the sweaty gym socks off of their male counterparts at 2012 London Summer Olympics bringing home more gold and total medals than men for the first time in history. If American women had competed as their own country, they would have tied for third in the gold medal count, and finished fifth in total medals.
It’s a snapshot of what women in the world could achieve — and how much better our societies would become — if everyone would wake up and realize the benefits of having women on an equal playing field in sports and beyond.
One of the main reasons women were so successful in London, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee, is because of Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibited gender discrimination in school sports.
“Title nine really gave us a head start because of our… national commitment to make sure young women in particular were getting the opportunity to be involved in sports so it’s something that we’re proud of,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun told NPR. He added that he believes the rest of the world is implementing similar policies, so he’s glad the US “got ahead of the curve.”
These types of policies resulted in some great Olympic moments for US women over the last two weeks, including:
— Gabby Douglass making history by becoming the first African-American to win the individual all-around champion in gymnastics.
— Kayla Harrison winning the first ever gold medal in judo for the US after enduring sexual abuse by her former coach as a young teenager.
— The U.S. women’s swim team winning gold and breaking records in the freestyle and medley relays.
The success of U.S. athletes in London shows that, with the right policies in place, women will rise to the challenge, but getting ahead of that curve takes time.
At the 1972 Munich Olympics, American women accounted for less than 24 percent of the team’s total medals. At the 2012 London Olympics that jumped to 56 percent.
Can you imagine what women globally could achieve if we were ahead of the curve in politics, business and civic life? What might our societies become?
Here are some thoughts: eradicating domestic violence and poverty, ending all wars, raising better educated and healthier children, increased overall happiness.
I might be just dreaming but the U.S. women athletes in London have inspired me once again to think big, and think anything is possible.