On June 21, 1973, a meeting occurred that lead to the launch of the WTA women’s tennis tour that saw Billie Jean King and nearly 60 other players agreed to what today is know as the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). The group came together to pave the way for tennis and women’s sport in general, so it could grow.
Just over 50 years later, at the very same Gloucester Hotel, a mile south of Hyde Park saw the reunion of 13 of the women who were at the pivotal meeting, to celebrate the past, present, and future of women’s tennis. Led by Billie Jean King, arrived at what is now known as the Millennium Gloucester Hotel on a vintage double-decker bus, travelling from the Chelsea Harbour Hotel via landmarks including the Victoria & Albert Museum and Royal Albert Hall.
Back in 1973, it took courage for these women to stand up for women’s sport, with Billie Jean King and a few others as the leaders paving the way boldly, as there were concerns of being penalized, but stood together to demand change, to unite people and for them to have a voice and power. A few years after the coining of the WTA in 1973, Chris Evert surpassed 1 million dollars in career earnings and was the first female athlete to do so, and Martina Navratilova 10 years later made that in one season. Demonstrating, with strong leaders and uniting people for the greater good, you can create a better future. Today, the WTA has more than 50 tournaments at its top level, 20 on a lower tier, including Grand Slam tournaments that now pay equal amounts to women and men with more than 180 million dollars available in prize money each season. Are there lessons that can be learned from sport in history, that can be used in business today?
Tennis may not be where Billie Jean King and co want it to be just yet, but by striving for change in Tennis, it has systemically helped other sports too – teeing up a culture of women’s sports. Do we still see such exemplary leadership today? To make change, a unifying team is paramount in creating a force big enough that can strive to make a brighter future.
Image by WTA.