Sport: Bridging the Gender Gap

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Gabrielle Douglas of the United States looks on as she is introduced in the Artistic Gymnastics W
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Gabrielle Douglas of the United States looks on as she is introduced in the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team final on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on July 31, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Last week, the renowned Augusta Golf Course in Georgia -- host of the famed Masters Tournament -- admitted women as members for the first time. The first two women to join were trailblazers in their own right: Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, who was also the youngest person ever to be named provost of Stanford University, and Darla Moore, a financier and philanthropist from South Carolina whom Fortune Magazine nicknamed 'The Toughest Babe in the Business.' The impact of Augusta's decision has gained national media attention, but its significance is by no means regionally limited. Around the world, these headlines bear an important reminder that global gender equality is indeed possible.

Throughout the Olympics in London this summer, female athletes were able to showcase their triumphs like never before. London 2012 marked the first time in Olympic history that all participating teams had female athletes. The historical significance of this landmark achievement is undeniable. With a total of 100 medals for the United States, the U.S. women won nearly twice as many as the men. Media coverage applauding their incredible successes exploded in the days following the release of the final medal count. The headlines were both telling and powerful: "U.S. Women Stole the Show" and "Year of the Woman" sent a resonating message of pride in our women.

Sporting events like the Olympics have developed and maintained a clear message of promoting gender equality as an essential criterion in the success of any international event. The achievements of women during London 2012 help to make the case for unleashing the potential of women and girls around the world -- a testament to the need for greater participation by females in all fields, from business to politics to health.

One of the aims of Doha GOALS (Gathering of All Leaders in Sport), which will be held in Qatar in December, is to foster equality and social harmony through sport. In January, at our Doha GOALS pre-forum, Martina Navratilova, the former Tennis World No. 1, observed, "Girls who play sports stay in school longer, have lower rates of teenage pregnancy, and better social development." Involvement in sports boosts the self-esteem of young girls, and high profile athletic events provide them with a number of positive role models in their sport of choice.

The achievements of Gabrielle Douglas, for example, will have inspired a whole new generation of young girls. At this year's Olympics, teenager Douglas won gold in both the all-around and team gymnastics competitions. Douglas has spoken publicly about how focus and determination have helped her to reach her goals. "Always strive for your dreams and personal goals and never let anyone tell you that you can't do it, because you can," Douglas told reporters after her victory. Gabby's Olympic success received global attention and has opened the door for her to become a role model to young girls everywhere.

In India, female athletes like Saina Nehwal, London 2012 badminton bronze medalist, have helped to bring social change to a nation so accustomed to gender inequality. Female success stories from sporting events like the Olympic Games have played a role in shifting the Indian perception to see the female athlete as a hero and a role model for young Indian girls.

At Doha GOALS we are acutely aware of the equalizing nature of sport. Athletes' stunning performances bond their supporters together in joyous emotion, and the gratitude that people feel towards athletes for the effort and practice that they put in is as tangible as if they knew them personally. Sporting achievements bestow a sense of unification on the cultures and societies in which they take place and create an outpouring of nationalism and pride.

Sport is a great equalizer that can build bridges, transcend borders and cultures, and render even the fiercest conflicts temporarily irrelevant. At Doha GOALS, we are thrilled that this has been such an astonishing year for sports. It is our passion and our vision to inspire those of all ages to participate in sport in order to experience the plethora of benefits that it provides.

Richard Attias is the co-founder and producer of Doha GOALS, the premiere platform for world leaders to advance social initiatives through sport.