As this article is being written, the Australian Open is underway in Melbourne, and it strikes me that there is no sport so equal across gender lines as tennis. This is not to say there hasn’t been a struggle to get there. Women did not always have equal prize money in tennis, and as we saw even at the 2018 U.S. Open during the women’s final, women can sometimes be treated differently by officials as well. However, thanks to pioneering efforts by the likes of Billie Jean King, modern feminist icons like Serena Williams, and even some of the professional men on tour who have advocated for equality, such as Andy Murray, tennis - for the most part - looks and feels equal.
Attend a major tennis tournament and you’re likely to see just as much of a crowd for a match featuring female stars as their male counterparts; turn on the TV during a tournament like the Australian Open and it’s a coin flip as to whether they’ll be showing men’s or women’s matches. Save for mixed doubles matches (which don’t get much publicity), the professional men and women don’t actually play against each other. For all intents and purposes though, they’re competing in the same event.
This got me thinking: why don’t other major sporting events work this way? Aside from tennis, the Olympics, and I suppose UFC, it’s hard to find examples of men and women competing in the same sport and being showcased at the same time, or in a similar way. Yet when this happens it goes a long way, not just in generating viewership and revenue for the women, but in helping viewers who are so often blindly partial to men’s sports realize that the entertainment value of the competition and the respectability of the athletes is typically equal across lines.
These are merely one writer’s ideas and suggestions, but it seems that these events could go further to promote women’s sports the way tennis manages to do.
1 - The NBA Playoffs
If you’re a basketball fan who pays attention to social media, you may have noticed that the WNBA is actually getting a lot more respect of late. The league is packed with extremely talented stars, and to their credit some of the biggest voices in NBA media (such as Shea Serrano) have gone out of their way to show and tell their followers that the WNBA can be every bit as exciting. However, the wage gap remains real and the attendance gap is massive, which means there’s still a long way. It would seem that the two leagues could help to bridge the gap by involving the start of the WNBA season (typically in May) with the NBA playoffs (which begin in April). Rather than simply advertising games, as happens now, the leagues should consider airing early WNBA showcases, or even an early season tournament, in between days on the NBA playoff schedule, or during off hours. With so many eyes on the NBA during the playoffs, it seems an ideal time to directly involve the women’s game as well.
2 - The Masters
Women’s golf is taken quite seriously in golf circles, and the LPGA Tour does have a following. With that said though, the tour has nothing even approaching the prestige of The Masters, which is quite possibly the most famous golf event on the planet. Now, a golf tournament means a fairly packed schedule, so despite the fact that the tournament has the smallest number of starters of any major (at 90 to 100 players), it’s probably not feasible to make it a two-tournament event, like a tennis major. However, having an LPGA event at Augusta National in the days right before or right after The Masters could go a very long way toward boosting attention for the women’s tour, and establishing a sort of signature event.
3 - The World Cup
While it presents a logistical challenge of substantial proportions for the host nation, the World Cup should simply be a men’s and women’s event. The Women’s World Cup is a fairly strong draw in and of itself, but putting it at the same venue, and over the same dates as the men’s tournament would enhance both events. It would turn the Cup into a true Olympics-level event surrounding just the beloved sport of soccer, and it would naturally bring some extra eyes to the always compelling women’s game. Given that most of the World Cup schedule tends to involve just two or three matches per day (four earlier on), this seems reasonable doable.
4 - The Boat Race
The Boat Race is a British sporting competition that is in fact already doing a wonderful job of putting men and women on equal footing. Held each year on the River Thames between two prestigious universities (Cambridge and Oxford), it’s a series of rowing races that, a long time ago, was only for young men. However, when Cambridge won the women’s race last spring, it was noted that it was the 73rd women’s race, meaning this has been a dual-gender event for the better part of a century. The suggestion here is simply that this event - which is big in London and around England to some degree - should get more international press.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.