Deep Dive Explainer Fashion Health International Women's Day 2019 Serena Williams

Motherhood and Maternity Leave in Sports

An illustration of Serena Williams throwing a tennis ball up in the air while her husband holds their baby in the crowd
(Photograph: Shayla Bond, @bushclass)

The subject of maternity depart in sport has been within the highlight this yr, largely because of the most effective tennis participant on the earth, Serena Williams, having a child. After profitable the 2017 Australian Open whereas preggers (LOL, LIKE HOW?!), Williams was pressured to go away tennis as a result of she was pregnant. When she stopped enjoying, Serena was ranked No. 1 on the earth. Nevertheless, after having the cutest child woman on the earth, Alexis Ohanian Jr., she returned to the WTA (Ladies’s Tennis Affiliation) in March 2018 with a rating of No. 453.

Rankings are extremely necessary in tennis, because it’s one of the best vs. the worst ranked gamers dealing with off initially of the event. This leads to the most effective gamers being considerably protected for the primary couple of rounds. Subsequently, it was a BFD that Williams didn’t have a superb rating when she got here again to the tennis world, as she needed to face off towards her fiercest opponents proper on the get-go, in addition to all through the event. Earlier than her mat depart, she would have solely encountered these gamers in finals or semi finals. Merely put, this might be like Williams being the CEO of an organization, taking mat depart, after which coming again to her job to seek out out that she’d been demoted to the underside of the org chart. How TF is that truthful?!

The state of affairs of a tennis participant happening mat depart has occurred earlier than, however due to Williams’ movie star, the WTA not having a good mat depart coverage is within the limelight. For a sport that prides itself on gender fairness (in 2007, tennis lastly began paying women and men the identical prize cash in tournaments), it’s surprising that there isn’t a greater rating coverage for ladies coming back from mat depart.

What occurred to Williams actually annoyed us. It additionally prompted us to consider motherhood and maternity depart in sports activities typically. Sadly, many athletes have to decide on between motherhood and being an athlete. If athletes select to return again to the game after giving start, it isn’t often supported by truthful maternity depart insurance policies. So, we determined to dive deeper into the conundrum of motherhood and mat depart in sports activities.

The Selection Between Motherhood and Sports activities…

1. Most sports activities don’t have paid mat depart

For Canadians in company settings, we’re pretty lucky to have a paid mat depart and about 12 months off from work (relying on the employer). Nevertheless, the identical can’t be stated for athletes. Sadly, for a lot of sports activities, play = pay. For those who’re not on the pitch, you’re positive as heck not creating wealth. For instance, Williams was the one lady listed on the Forbes Prime 100 Highest Paid Athletes in 2017, however after giving start and taking mat depart, she was not on the listing in 2018. It’s additionally essential to say that no different ladies have been listed within the prime 100 both. Speak about #wagegap.

2. Throughout being pregnant, mat depart and publish being pregnant, there’s usually a lower in endorsement cash

Play = pay additionally goes for sponsorship cash. When feminine athletes are unable to compete in leagues, competitions, tournaments, and so forth., many manufacturers pull again their endorsements as their model is not regularly in entrance of the buyer. Additional, following being pregnant, it takes many ladies a very long time to get again into the health degree of an elite athlete (and TBH most of us haven’t any clue what it means to be in that kind of form). Consequently, when these ladies get again to competing, their outcomes are (as to be anticipated!) not the identical as they have been earlier than that they had a child. And, you guessed it, as a result of their outcomes aren’t nearly as good as they was, they don’t get the identical financial help from sponsors.

three. Having a child takes an emotional and bodily toll on prime of a demanding journey schedule athletes have

Mothers are really superheroes. The (literal) sh!t they should put up with on a day-to-day foundation is exceptional. For mother athletes, compound all of the unimaginable onerous work they already do and add that to the rigorous coaching they need to undertake to get again to their sport ASAP (as talked about, no luxurious of getting paid day off they usually don’t need to fall behind the competitors). On prime of the coaching, as soon as these mommas are again in motion, they’re probably travelling everywhere in the world to play their sport. Getting back from having a child is just not solely bodily demanding, because the physique is usually not the identical because it was pre-baby, but in addition emotionally demanding. Many mother athletes, together with Williams, have stated they really feel extremely responsible for spending time coaching over time with their child. Significantly. Take a look at this tweet from Serena and inform us it doesn’t make you need to cry.

— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) August 6, 2018

So, if we could also be so daring, it’s virtually as if feminine athletes are punished for having the organic potential to have youngsters. The truth is that motherhood has a huge effect on an athlete’s profession, and, if motherhood may even remotely be a profession killer, it’s actually no shock that ladies stay extremely under-represented in sports activities.

What are Organizations Doing Now?


Let’s take a look at the WTA first. In tennis, they’ve a “particular rating” rule the place the participant can use her particular rating to realize entry into tournaments for 2 years. Nevertheless, this rating solely qualifies them for tournaments. The seeds inside the event, which decide the highest gamers for any given event, are based mostly off that participant’s present yr WTA rating. That’s why Williams and others can achieve entry into tournaments, however why they’re not listed as prime canine on the event. Right here’s an excellent Q&A with the WTA that explains particular seeding and their *cough* bogus *cough* coverage on maternity leaves. They’re at present contemplating a rule change for the 2019 season.


We’ve kinda acquired a feel-good story for this one. Two-time main champion and 12-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Stacy Lewis, went on mat depart earlier in 2018, and for the primary time EVER in women golf, her fundamental sponsor, KPMG, is paying Lewis the FULL worth of her contract. Snaps to KPMG (and no they didn’t pay us to say that)!!! With out KPMG endorsing her, although, Lewis stated she would have had a completely unpaid maternity depart. There have been a handful of professional golfers which have had infants through the years; nevertheless, the comeback to professional golf is troublesome. Just one golfer has gained a serious event after turning into a mom during the last 15 years.


Don’t even get us began on organized skilled staff sports activities in Canada. In 2017, the Canadian Ladies’s Hockey League (CWHL) JUST began paying their gamers all through the common season (and we’re speaking small bucks…solely $2,000 to $10,000 per participant, like SMDH). They’re simply beginning to PAY gamers not to mention even THINK about mat depart.


The WNBA is basically the one long-term solidified skilled sports activities league for ladies out of the core 4 sports activities (baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer) in North America. Within the WNBA’s collective bargaining settlement (CBA), gamers who get pregnant whereas underneath contract obtain 50% of their wage and have their medical bills coated by insurance coverage. Not dangerous, but in addition not nice contemplating the WNBA’s notoriously low wages. The present CBA runs by way of October 2021. For the upcoming new contract, it’s anticipated that the WNBA gamers’ union will negotiate baby care expense protection as gamers can’t be anticipated to maintain their youngsters once they’re flying across the nation.

Let’s change to the NBA, which is extensively considered probably the most progressive males’s skilled league when it comes to hiring ladies within the workplace in addition to on the courtroom. Issues are shifting in the appropriate path this yr—Jenny Boucek turned the primary ever assistant coach within the NBA to be employed whereas pregnant. YASSS Jenny, get it!

Tying it Again to the Office

As a result of nearly all of us aren’t blessed with superb athletic genes and superhuman coordination (we blame our mother and father), we’re gonna tie this matter again to one thing most of us are conversant in – the office. There’s a variety of proof that exhibits working moms are extremely environment friendly and motivated staff, and that staff really feel extra loyal to organizations that help them all through their being pregnant. Why can’t insurance policies within the company world be replicated in sport? If sport might embrace comparable insurance policies to the company world, and never punish ladies for taking maternity depart (e.g. Williams’ rating going from No. 1 to No. 453), perhaps sport might reap the identical rewards that the company world has. It’s at the very least value exploring, no?

To Summarize

Right here’s the factor: provided that sports activities have been created by males for males within the early 1900s, it’s no marvel that the preliminary guidelines didn’t take ladies’s maternity depart into consideration. However, it’s 2018 and the quantity of progress that’s been made is just unacceptable. Having a celebrity like Serena Williams deliver the difficulty of maternity depart in sport into the highlight is admittedly constructive for ladies’s sports activities – as a result of when individuals speak, it may usually spark change. That stated, we have to be sure that the change enacted isn’t just for stars like Williams – it additionally signifies that these moms-to-be which might be ranked at 150+ are handled the identical means.

Gender fairness in sports activities has an extended strategy to go. Society usually thinks of gender fairness in sports activities when it comes to equal enjoying alternatives and pay fairness. Nevertheless, maternity depart and motherhood additionally have to be factored into this equation. Gamers shouldn’t really feel like they’re being punished for turning into a mom … nor ought to they really feel like they’ve to decide on between motherhood and being an elite athlete due to monetary causes. Enacting change will take the help from athletes’ sponsors and the leagues. If the WTA contemplating a rule change and KPMG honouring its full sponsorship contract all through a maternity depart is an indication of something, we’re crossing our fingers that 2018 and 2019 will convey extra constructive change.

Small alerts, just like the WTA contemplating a rule change and KPMG honouring its full sponsorship contract all through a maternity depart, present that constructive change is on the horizon. We’ve received our fingers crossed that 2018 and 2019 will convey extra consideration and consequently guidelines modifications that may higher help to mother athletes.

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