Written by Dana Andrews, USTA Florida President
No matter your political affiliation we saw history made at the inauguration of 2021 with Kamala Harris swearing in as the first female Vice President of the United States. Personally, I did not anticipate the tears that came to my eyes witnessing this event. My daughter said the same thing. Social media was flooded with pictures of young girls watching the event as well. And you cannot mention female participation in the inauguration without mentioning the youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. An amazing example of a talented, artistic young lady taking centerstage.
Over the last year the sports world, despite COVID-19, has celebrated women’s achievement and breaking several high barriers. It was an inconsequential power five football game between Vanderbilt and Missouri this past fall, when we all watched as Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller took the field in pads and a helmet. Kim Ng became the first female general manager of an MLB team. Right here in Tampa, Sarah Thomas also became the first woman to officiate the Super Bowl. In the tennis world, Stacy Allaster made history as the first female tournament director of the U.S. Open.
I do not know these women personally, but my guess is they have some experiences and values that are similar. Each most likely has perseverance and probably had people in their past telling them they could not achieve their goal or dream. However, for each of them, most likely there was a mentor encouraging them along the way and finally someone who believed that regardless of the gender, this person is the best person for the job.
There is so much history we could all share about Billie Jean King. Calling her a trailblazer is an understatement. Her energy and passion for gender equality has been an example to all of us. Where would we be without her development of the WTA, and the role models that have come out of that organization for girls around the world?!
Each person is blessed with different gifts to “bring to the table.” I think of Venus and Serena as perfect examples of two women who lead in very different ways. Certainly Serena, the extrovert, and Venus, the introvert. However, a story that you may not know about Venus is that in 2005, prior to the Wimbledon Final, she had a meeting with the All England Club. She told them to close their eyes and imagine little girls achieving their goal of playing at Wimbledon but being told that Wimbledon did not value girls as much as boys. At that time, Wimbledon did not have equal prize money. It still took additional time, including an op-ed by Venus in 2007 in the London newspaper, to eventually get the All England Club to agree to equal prize money. On personality alone you may have guessed that it was Serena who would have attempted to challenge the old boys club, but it was actually the shyer, soft-spoken Venus who took on the challenge.
In our own organization, I have been encouraged and mentored by some fabulous women: Laura Bowen (ED), Trish Faulkner, Teri Florio, Nancy Horowitz, Alexis Johnson (Foundation ED), Cindy Harkin, Celia Rhem, and Joan Zirpoli to name just a few.
So as we head into 2021, put on your tennis shoes. There’s glass everywhere, and many more ceilings to break!