Top Five Most Influential Female Athletes

My ranking of the most prominent female athletes who have paved the way for future generations through their achievements and advocacy.

Women’s sports are continuously becoming more popular on the international stage, with new stars rising every day. There is a hunger for improvement when it comes to the inequality faced by female athletes. Each of the women on this list has that hunger and do not hesitate to show it. Here is my ranking of the most influential female athletes of all time.


#5 Marta

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In the soccer world, Marta Vieira de Silva is simply known as Marta and is considered the greatest female soccer player of all time. She currently plays for the Orlando Pride alongside USWNT superstars Ali Krieger and Alex Morgan, as well as the Brazilian National team.

Her continuing prosperous career gave Brazilian girls and women a real image of what female athletes can achieve. Marta has been a recipient of numerous awards in her career, most notably being a six-time FIFA World Player of the Year, five of which were consecutive.

In route to those Player of the Year awards, Marta beat out players such as Germany’s Birgit Prinz and the United States’ Abby Wambach.

Marta now holds the title of most World Cup history goals, surpassing Germany’s Miroslav Klose with her 17th goal in 2019.


#4 Rhonda Rousey


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In an extremely male-dominated sport, Rhonda Rousey managed to become a popular face of all things fighting in the 2010s. Before making her big break in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Rousey was the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in the sport of judo at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

That was just the first of many accomplishments Rousey has racked up during her career, including taking part in the first-ever women’s fight in UFC history, where she won the title against Liz Carmouche.

Although she ended up losing her title to Holly Holm in her first professional loss in MMA, she became the first female fighter to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, creating a legacy that all female fighters aspire to have.

Overall, Rousey is the only woman to win a championship in both the WWE and UFC, putting her atop the female fighter standard. Furthermore, Fox Sports described her as “one of the defining athletes of the 21st century.”


#3 Lisa Leslie


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It was the dunk heard around the world, changing women’s basketball forever. It happened at the 2005 WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. What dunk? The first-ever WNBA dunk by legend Lisa Leslie.

Leslie became the face of women’s basketball in America. Furthermore, the dunk created more of an equilibrium between the WNBA and the NBA. Leslie made the statement that men aren’t the only ones who can put on a good show.

Leslie kept setting the bar high as she became the third WNBA player in history to record a triple-double. She racked up 29 points, 14 rebounds, and ten blocks. These achievements landed her in movies and television such as Uncle Drew, The Simpsons, Celebrity Apprentice, and many others.

Leslie is now considered not only one of the best basketball players of all time but also one of the greatest female athletes ever.


#2 Serena Williams


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Her name speaks for herself. If you haven’t heard of Serena Williams, then you aren’t following the right sports outlets. Currently, Williams holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among all active players.

Her 23 Grand Slam singles titles is the record for the most tournament wins in the Open Era. But all of this success hasn’t come without issues. Racial comments such as her hair being described as “noisy and disruptive” and a fan yelling “skin them alive” are just two examples of the slander Williams has faced.

Yet through all the adversity, her perseverance gives strength to the black female athlete community. Williams took the sports world by storm, redefining what it means to be a powerful female in a male-dominated industry.

She continues to use her national platform to speak on important issues like recognizing women’s contributions to the sport of tennis and the inequalities of pay between the genders. These ideas are all present in a letter Williams wrote in Porter Magazine’s “Incredible Women of 2016.”


#1 Billie Jean King

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Ultimately, this whole list can be debated. However, tennis player Billie Jean King is number one because she had to face her enemies head-on. She also pushed for change for female athletes.

King went to Capitol Hill to support the passage of Title IX because of the enormous equality benefits for female athletes. The passage of the bill in 1972 broke down walls for new generations of American women. It is important to acknowledge King’s dedication for future female athletes.

She paved the way for successful female athletes to have a chance in the spotlight. In turn, that eventually helped all of the women on this list.

Nonetheless, this all too often goes unnoticed compared to her famous match, “Battle of the Sexes.

It was against a professional male tennis player, Bobby Riggs. The match was sparked by a statement Riggs made claiming that at age 55, he could still beat the top female tennis player because he was a man. Unfortunately for Riggs, King at the time was the top competitor.

Accepting his challenge, she dominated the game, beating him in three matches. King proved to the world that women are just as capable. In fact, maybe even more so than some professional male athletes who receive more recognition.