It’s a lot bigger than sports. It shined a light on what we go through in the workplace when we choose to raise our voices.
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“The fact that I have to go thru this is just an example for the next person … and they are going to be allowed to do it because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it will work out for the next person.”
Serena’s words hit me harder than her 120+ mph serve.
If you are a woman in the workforce, then you know exactly what she meant. You put in work. Overtime. The decision doesn’t go in your favor. Someone else gets the promotion. Someone else gets the credit. At worst, you walk away completely empty-handed.
First, come the questions: Am I being treated like this because I am a woman? Because I am a woman of color? Because I’m smart? Because I’m successful? Would you have made that decision if I looked different? Sounded different? Am I being used as an example? Or is this simply a power move that has nothing to do with me at all?
You have gone through all of the possible reasons and now decide that you need to do something, say something. You are going to push the needle. You are going to raise your hand and use your voice. Maybe you don’t want to come off “too (insert adjective used to undercut the nuances of your womanhood and possibly coded words to undermine your power),” but you have resolved to yourself that you will not yield.
You are not going down like this.
While you may have handled yours inside the four walls of an otherwise unknown office building, Serena’s played out on the court and in public so that we might all find comfort in the struggle. Of all the words this Compton-born woman could have used to express her frustration at the umpire’s decisions in the 2018 US Open women’s final, she found a rather benign five-letter word to share her thoughts — benign especially when compared to her own previous courtside comments and some of the more colorful words used by her male predecessors in the sport. In the heat of the match, Serena raised her hand, used her voice and in the end pushed us forward.
So, take this lesson: You stand on the shoulders of those who have gone through it. Those who made noise. Those who did not yield. Some have lived to tell the tale, others have their stories told for them. If you are going through it, maybe you are making a way so that the next ones can step over it. Let them hear you. Let the story that they tell about you be one of strength, courage, and wisdom.
Keep your head up, Queen.