Mar 18
March 18, 2015

Ceiling Breaker for Girls in Sports


Deborah Slaner Larkin, CEO of Women’s Sports Foundation, has dedicated her life to ensuring sports are safe and equitable for all women and girls. Deborah grew up in a household that promoted and celebrated women in sports; her parents were avid athletes, and her mother excelled in both golf and tennis. Her father’s support of her mother’s dedication to sports had a large impact on Deborah, who grew up playing a variety of sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, gymnastics, and tennis. Through her participation in sports, Deborah developed the leadership skills needed to advance not just in sports but in all facets of her personal and professional life, and her life-long commitment to physical activity has helped her concentrate on achieving important goals and outcomes. Like almost all athletes, Deborah has taken the confidence gained from her participation in sports to other areas of her life, including the classroom and the boardroom, where she continues to serve as a powerful advocate for equitable access to sports and physical activity for all women and girls.  

Deborah’s commitment to girls’ empowerment through sports has also guided her career. She served as the second executive director of Women’s Sports Foundation from 1986-1992 and on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports from 1994-2002. Deborah was the executive director of the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) Foundation, from 2010-2013, during which she substantially increased returns through creative marketing programs and revenue stream, brought the Foundation into the 21st century in terms of finances and communications, and commissioned a major report on the educational, social, and health benefits of high school-aged athletes. Throughout her career, Deborah has dedicated herself to the enforcement of Title IX and has been involved in several landmark legal cases related to sexual harassment in school, protection for whistleblowers in school discrimination cases, and pay equity. Her career path and our nation’s continued need for leaders in the fields of health, education, and sports has brought her back to the Women’s Sports Foundation, where she currently serves as the CEO. In 2015, Deborah is focusing the organization’s efforts largely on participation of minority girls, girls’ health, and safety for girls both in and out of sports and school. Deborah personally shares the same view that the Women’s Sports Foundation was founded on:

the passionate and insistent belief that sports are important because of their health, education and social benefits that help girls become leaders and important contributors to our entire society.

The Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) is proud to work with Deborah and the Women’s Sports Foundation on increasing access to sports and physical activity among underrepresented and underserved communities. Deborah and her team have served as advisors to CHMI’s programs focused on removing obstacles faced by girls to full participation in sports, and both organizations will continue to collaborate on the Aspen Institute’s Project Play as it moves into the activation phase within communities and youth serving organizations nationwide. 

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