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Billie Jean King: A ‘dream’ watching Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles speak out

In this article:
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Tennis legend Billie Jean King joins 'Influencers with Andy Serwer' to share her thoughts on the next generation of activist athletes.

Video transcript

ANDY SERWER: What about business, Billie? Because there are still just 41 women CEOs at companies on the Fortune 500. And what needs to change to create more opportunities for women to attain leadership positions there and throughout society?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Well, one thing I've noticed-- and, Andy, it drives me crazy-- is that when a woman leads, people think we only lead for women. They never think of us leading for everyone. Like, oh, Billie works on gender equity, she works on gender-- or gender this or-- no. When I do something, it might be for women, but it's for everyone. Because when you help one person, you help the world to be a better place.

So we have to change that, or we'll never get a woman president, we will not get more women CEOs. And I want women and I want girls to go into sports because here's what they learn. They learn the culture that men have created in business and in sports and most of our lives. And it's so important that we learn how to navigate. I've been in boardrooms before, and a guy will say something, and I know-- or the women will say something, and she didn't get it. It's either over her head or she'll say something, she didn't really hear. And it's because she hasn't been around the culture.

So it's like reading between the lines. And 94% of women in C suites in business identify with being an athlete. And 50% of those-- I think I have this right-- is that they were in, they played college sports, they had a scholarship to college or at least played varsity, or D1, D2, D3, depending upon the school, NAIA or whatever.

So these are the things that we have to keep pushing. But you'd never hear-- people might come up to me and say, thanks for what you did for women's tennis? Well, first of all, I fought for pro tennis. And that helped the guys. It didn't help me in the end. And so that's gets irritating. But they'll come up and say, thanks what you did for women's tennis. But they'll never go up to a male and say, thanks what you did for men's tennis. They'll say, thanks what you did for tennis. And that's the way women have to be perceived if we're going to be in leadership positions.

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