“A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.” — Melinda Gates
It was a few years ago. Probably Jan 2018, I was sitting on my then coach’s couch and we were speaking about the challenges women face in organizations. I still remember exactly what she told me:
“The business environment wasn’t created with us in mind. It wasn’t created for those of us who bleed every month, bear children, struggle with morning sickness, and more”.
I know team members who suffer from bad period cramps that they have to take 2 days off every month. The general question that gets asked is — why does she take so much leave?
I remember being in a leadership meeting, where one of the team leads matter of factly informed us that he has instructed the women in his team not to get pregnant all at once.
These are just minor examples. But it shines a light on an overarching problem. Why is the workplace unempathetic to our biological problems? There are lots of great women who are raising their voices. In the backdrop of the Tokyo Olympics, one woman’s voice stands out for me. Her name is Allyson Felix. An Olympic medal-winning athlete who courageously used her voice for good.
Pregnancy is a natural part of a woman’s journey if she chooses it. Why is that frowned upon? Why does it mean pay cuts? Like many of us, Allyson realized her silence was not going to bring about change. She used her platform to change this standard. She took on Nike, knowing it could negatively impact her career. And she didn’t do it alone. Two other female athletes supported her — Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher.
To me, these women are legendary category queens who are using their voices to change the standard for women athletes who follow. In doing so they changed the tide. Several companies including Nike have changed their policies to protect the pay grade of female athletes during pregnancy.
Change cannot be left to chance. If we suffer in silence too afraid to speak, we cannot enact real change. I know how scary it can be and I know how scared I feel every time I speak up. But we need to speak up. We need to channel the hurt, the pain, and the shame into something impactful.
That’s exactly what Allyson Felix did. Allyson has the made track and field history. Winning more medals than any American. She also founded Saysh One — a lifestyle sneaker brand that was created for women by women.
The world needs more of this. The world needs more women to design impact-driven categories. In Allyson’s post she says:
I never would have thought that using my voice would have led to NIKE changing their maternity policy for athletes and I definitely never would have thought it would lead to creating @bysaysh. Keep going and keep speaking up, even if your voice shakes. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support in my journey on the track and now with my company. The outpouring of love has been overwhelming. I’m so full of gratitude.
Please be clear. I used my voice and built this company for you. So that you never have to train at 4:30am while you’re 5 months pregnant to hide your pregnancy from your sponsor. So that you won’t have to fight someone so much bigger than you for a right that should be basic. I took that on for you, and I didn’t do it alone, but it was for you.
I built @bysaysh with @pwesley22 because we didn’t see what we thought the world needed. The world doesn’t need more shoes, but the world does need to see women wholly and meet them right where they are. That’s what we’re hoping to do with @bysaysh. We want women to feel seen and known. I hope I’m able to leave this sport better than I found it and this world better than when I entered it.
“I built @bysaysh with @pwesley22 because we didn’t see what we thought the world needed. The world doesn’t need more shoes, but the world does need to see women wholly and meet them right where they are.”
The words of a legendary category creator and queen. She is designing the category of athletes and what it means to be one.
Thank you Allyson Felix for using your voice and creating a platform for change. You have inspired me and countless others.