It’s undeniable that women in sport are formidable competitors, but not only are they phenomenal athletes, they also have great influence across the world. We’ve revealed the world’s most influential sportswomen of 2022 who have the most social media followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok combined, alongside Wikipedia page views.
The list reveals the sportswomen who have made outstanding contributions to their respective sports as well as inspiring and empowering others through their contributions to the wider world. This list of trailblazers are pathing the way for a better future for women in sport and beyond.
Top 10 Most Influential Women
American sportswomen make up half of the list, highlighting the significance the USA has on women’s sport and sport as a whole. With a combined reach of 127.5 million, Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, Alex Morgan, Simone Biles (one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People 2021) and Crissa Jackson have incredible influence in both their sports and wider culture.
The list reveals that tennis produces the most influential sportswomen, with the sport featuring four times in the top 10. Serena Williams claimed the top spot on the leaderboard with a total reach of 38.7 million people.
Some of the tennis players named have supported causes outside of their sport, sparking important conversations across a variety of issues. Serena Williams is championing the fight for equal pay in tennis – and for all women in sport, while Naomi Osaka, one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People 2021, has bravely spoken out about her own mental health struggles since winning the 2018 United States Open. Inspiring change and taking action for important women’s issues, these sportswomen have solidified their place as inspirational women of note.
Women’s impact outside of sport continues with other influential sportswomen in the top 10, including Alex Morgan, US footballer and advocate of equal pay and access for young athletes in sport who in 2019 was named one of the TIME’s Most Influential People.
Decorated Indian badminton player, P. V. Sindhu secured her spot in the top 10 after making history as the first Indian woman to win two Olympic medals. As well as excelling in her sport, Sindhu has spoken out about the importance of clean and honest games, openly supported the #MeToo movement and was named in the Forbes list as one of the highest paid female athletes in 2021.
This list of the world’s top 10 influential sportswomen is a reflection of the hard work women have put into their sport and the issues they have fought hard to resolve. However, the social media follower count for the most influential sportswomen is still small compared to those of sportsmen: Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular sportsman on social media, with a combined following of 652 million, compared to 34.4million for Ronda Rousey. Some sports found that there are only some women who are taking the lead on socials such as Serena Williams who has 800,000 more followers than fellow tennis player Rafael Nadal.
So why is it that sportsmen are still gaining more traction across social media than the sportswomen listed? fourfive ambassador Rachael Burford, England Rugby Union Player and founder of the Girls Rugby Club shines a light on the ongoing need for women’s contributions to the sporting world.
Rachael thinks we can always do more, “I think we’re so advanced now in recognising what’s going on but we just need to keep shouting about all the great work that is being done by women, because it’s not just the players achievements but also their global growth, the eyeballs on TV and the sponsorship that’s coming in that encourage greater opportunities for sportswomen to have more influence.”
Influential sportswomen are not limited to the top 10 list, there are thousands of women who are excelling in their sport but also contributing to the wider community. We’ve found some sportswomen who missed out on the top 10 but have had a huge impact on the sporting world.
One to watch for the future: 14-year-old skateboard sensation Rayssa Leal, who won a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics, narrowly missed out on a space in the top 10 (11.1 million social media followers and 0.1 million Wikipedia page views in the past year). If the ranking was on social media alone, she would have comfortably made it into the top 10.
Gymnast Sunisa Lee has 3.4 million social media followers and 2.3 million Wikipedia page views in 2021 and the Olympic 4x400m relay runner Allyson Felix (2.5 million social media followers and 1.5 million Wikipedia page views in the past year) were the only other sports women to make it onto the TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2021.
In 2021, Sunisa Lee became the first Hmong American to win an Olympic medal. Later that year she revealed she had been pepper-sprayed in a racist attack during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and spoke out about the increased attacks on people with Asian descent during the pandemic.
Allyson Felix is history’s most decorated Olympic track and field athlete with 13 gold medals from world championships. In 2021 Felix made her MET Gala debut, alongside Simone Biles, as a guest of Athleta. Following the MET Gala Athleta donated $50,000 to the Power of She Fund in honour of Felix and Biles.
Footballer and activist Megan Rapinoe has 3.9 million followers and 1.7 million Wikipedia page views in the past year. She is part of the United States women’s national soccer team’s fight for equal pay and working conditions, as well as openly advocating for LGBT rights organisations and for social and racial justice. She was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.