We just returned from a bipartisan and bicameral Congressional Delegation (CODEL) comprised of all-women members to the Indo-Pacific, with stops specifically in Australia and New Zealand.
The trip had a dual mission. The first: to discuss national and global security and energy in the Indo-Pacific region. The second: to explore issues related to the empowerment of women and girls, the status of women in sports and building on current momentum in that space. To do both in a week is certainly a tall order, as the two are seemingly disconnected.
But we would argue these goals are very much related because they both display the power that the U.S. has to lead with our values, and our ability to build a better and safer country and world.
In 1972 Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments. This legislation barred sex discrimination in education programs and activities offered by any entity that receives federal financial assistance. In doing so, it indelibly changed the face of women’s sports. Layer that onto our more recent efforts in pay equality, such as the Equal Pay for Team USA Act of 2022 that was signed into law this year. That bill, not coincidentally, was authored and championed by multiple women on our CODEL.
The domestic results of these legislative achievements have been linked to the rise of U.S. women’s sports, life-changing scholarships and a resulting sea change in women’s participation in our economy. Though the U.S. certainly has a long way to go toward achieving total equality, Title IX unquestionably helped close the gap.
That being said, the U.S. has done more than legislative change. In recent years, American coaches and former players like Cindy Parlow Cone have traveled globally to inspire and encourage the next generation of women soccer players. American businesses have funded and broadcast women’s games, despite time zone challenges and unfounded skepticism that viewership would be lacking when in fact, the opposite happened. As many of us now know, the U.S. Women’s National Team broke record viewership for group stage games just this year. The truth is the U.S. took risks by investing in women’s sport, and those investments are clearly having a ripple effect around the world.
It is possible that the success of U.S. women’s soccer and the industry that it has developed is the reason why the world is celebrating a different World Cup: There was fierce competition from teams at every level of the tournament — with the quarterfinals including teams from South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. While the U.S. did not take home the title this year, our presence alone continues to have an impact in every tournament where the stars and stripes are represented.
Communities and countries around the world, including America, are more likely to be peaceful and successful when women fully participate in society. The world has begun to recognize this kind of support is simply the right thing to do, and is now embracing the values that the U.S. has led with.
Women’s sports might not be the first example one thinks of as a metaphor for global security. Another purpose of the trip was to meet with our Pacific Fleet and INDOPACOM leaders and regional allies to discuss issues of shared security interests in the Indo-Pacific.
Here in Congress, we have shown our support for Ukraine and, in the process, efforts to defend our democratic values worldwide. Now, most Americans have taken note of the parallels between the threats and implications of Russia’s war in Ukraine and a similar set of circumstances with China and Taiwan. In regard to Ukraine, the United States has led efforts to bring together allies from Europe and across the world to not just understand the threat, but to respond to it collectively. What started as an American warning has grown to a powerful and effective global coalition.
And, not unlike women’s sport, we have made that progress by leading with our values. Our nation has assembled a global coalition that is leading with patient diplomacy and an unprecedented sharing of intelligence to support Ukraine. The U.S. has also shown the way through significant bipartisan military support and diplomatic aid. The process has not come without missteps, but has resulted in a formidable opposition that Vladimir Putin certainly did not anticipate and that Xi Jinping?can clearly see every day.
Here’s where the parallel between U.S. soccer and global security comes in: We are beginning to see the fruits of our investment with respect to global stability and global participation. For example, we were able to see joint exercises in the Australian seas that were the first of their kind between India, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Also, Japan has, for the first time, committed more than 2 percent of its gross domestic product to defense. Sweden and Finland have joined NATO. The EU is buying more U.S. crude oil as they divest from Russia, and new economic alliances, both small and large, are cropping up globally in the wake of U.S. leadership.
The commonality here is American values-based leadership. This leadership matters, it influences the globe, and it creates a safer and better world. The members of our bipartisan and bicameral CODEL saw this firsthand. As our leadership and values inspire nations across the globe, we must respect, encourage and celebrate those to exemplify them. Together, our strong leadership here in the U.S. can continue to change the world.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and serves on the Appropriations, Commerce, and Rules committees. She is the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. Chrissy Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, engineer, serial entrepreneur, educator and nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.