Serena Williams' International Women's Day Essay Is an Inspiring Grand Slam

The athlete reflected on personal experience as she discussed all the challenges women still face and how they can see change.

By Samantha Schnurr Mar 08, 2019 4:29 PMTags
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Serena Williams is speaking up for women everywhere. 

In honor of International Women's Day, the tennis champion penned an essay for Fortune outlining all the ways women can see progress as they continue to enact positive change. 

"Every year, I look at IWD as a reinvigorated call to action: together, we can accelerate global efforts to reach true gender parity," the iconic athlete began. 

Williams focused on the workplace and how women are expected to do more, but without more support. "In our fast-paced world, expectations for women continue to rise, as do workplace demands and, unfortunately, double standards. Navigating it all is especially tough for working moms, myself included—I feel the pressure both on and off the court. Even with all the resources I'm incredibly blessed to have, motherhood comes with so many unexpected challenges, especially when it's time to go back to work," she explained. Williams became a first-time mom to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in 2017. 

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The SurveyMonkey board member turned to the data, outlining survey results showing women say they provide more childcare than their male partner while also working out of the home, leading to sacrifices in the workplace. 

"More than half of moms feel guilty leaving their children to go to work and a third say their job makes it challenging to do the things they want and need to do for their family," she wrote. "Forget the cliché of 'having it all,' the reality is, women are trying to do it all."

While she encouraged women everywhere to take professional risks for growth, Williams also rebuffed the idea of "perfection" as an "impossible goal" and acknowledged that if women are going to tackle everything life holds, they need fellow gals' support in and out of the office by calling out stereotypes about female behavior, fighting against outdated rules and expressing empathy towards each other. 

"We have to show ourselves and our female counterparts compassion and reality," the athlete urged. "While I think all women are superheroes, we are not superhuman and we need each other's support. We need to give each other grace when we fall short—and when society sets unrealistic expectations or our workplaces have antiquated rules. We must band together and fight for what's fair."

Recalling her own experiences, Williams continued, "When things were at their most challenging, the unwavering support of my mom, sisters, and friends helped me through. I want to remind all women reading this about the importance of supporting one another through the highs, lows, laughs, and tears, and always asking for help when it's needed. Trust me when I say: we've all been there before."

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Ultimately, with more support and understanding, women will be able to accomplish their dreams in all arenas of life, not just one. For Williams, those dreams were becoming the greatest tennis player and a mother. 

"My dreams are just beginning and being a mom is a part of that now. I want Olympia to see and remember her mom winning a Grand Slam title. I want her to know that my work fulfills me, that I'm proud and passionate about what I do even if I'm not perfect at it, and that she should never give up on her dreams," she wrote. "I want her to see a world of possibilities at her feet and to believe in those first steps she took when I was training, every time she takes a leap toward her goals— however big the risk."

Read her full essay for Fortune here

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