International Women's Day: How Serena Williams and Alex Morgan #PushForProgress

Serena Williams told BBC that she wants pay equity in tennis.
Serena Williams told BBC that she wants pay equity in tennis.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually around the world on March 8 to mark how far women have come and to give thanks to women in our lives.

It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements and strength without division. This year’s campaign featured the hashtag #PressForProgress; a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender equity.

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As part of the campaign, BBC Sport asked eight top female athletes — including Serena Williams and Alex Morgan — what progress they would like to see pressed forward in their respective sports.

Williams, who made her return to tennis on Thursday after a 14-month absence, focused on scheduling at Grand Slams and says it is time women took centre stage.

“I think women deserve a little more equal play time on the centre courts outside of the marquee players,” told BBC Sport. “I think women work really hard and deserve that respect.”

“Outside of some marquee players – which is just a handful – the women’s matches are at this time and the men’s matches are at the more marquee times.”

The holder of 23 Grand Slam singles titles gave birth to her first child last year and continues to speak out with an eye on the future. 

“How am I going to explain to my daughter that she’s getting less than my son?” asked Williams. “To me, it’s impossible to explain this.”

“I can’t say that it’s not time to get feisty, you know, I think maybe it is. You have to stand up.

“We deserve to be paid what a guy does. We deserve to be treated fairly, the same way. Conversations in 2018 we shouldn’t have to have, and I think it’s important to have that, and speak up loud and clear and say no, this isn’t right.”

Striker Alex Morgan has made 138 appearances for the United States national team.
Striker Alex Morgan has made 138 appearances for the United States national team.

Alex Morgan, who helped the USWNT reclaim the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando this week, wants the opportunities she’s had in soccer to be universal. 

 “We need more acceptance of women’s football on a global scale,” the 28-year-old said. “Both being seen as equals by men and having men, women, girls and boys promote women’s football and accept us in the sport.

“I feel like I have an amazing opportunity since I was a young girl to play this sport and do it in an all-girls team – but that’s not always the case around the world.

“I’ve seen so much progress only over the past 10 years since I’ve been with this team. I continue to see it making strides and national teams striving for equal payment and treatment.”

Meanwhile, tennis great Billie Jean King — who fought for equal rights during her playing career in the 1960’s and 1970’s — also spoke out about gender equality in today’s game but, perhaps surprisingly, targeted her comments on the mens side of things.

”Personally, I don’t want the men playing five sets anymore. I think it takes too much out of them,” King told the Associated Press.  “Like one time the players played in the Australian Open final. It took six hours. They could hardly walk off the court. I guarantee you that it took a year off their careers.”

At the moment, men play best-of-five sets and women play best-of-three at Grand Slam tournaments.

She also spoke about pay equity in tennis.

”Everyone keeps saying we don’t want to. We’re very willing,” she said the former World No. 1. “All the women are willing to play three or five sets.”

“It doesn’t matter if (the artists) play for one hour or six hours. They get paid the same amount.”

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