Track superstar and U.S. Olympic team member Allyson Felix will race at the Tokyo Olympics in an attempt to win her seventh gold medal. And while Felix’s legacy is already tremendous — her six Olympic gold medals are the most ever won by a female track and field athlete — the most important thing in this athlete’s life is her daughter, Camryn.
But even getting to the start line requires sacrifice for moms like Felix, including the financial burden of childcare during training and competition. Felix decided to help other women in her shoes by creating a grant program with her main sponsor, Athleta, and the Women’s Sports Foundation (an organization founded by tennis great Billie Jean King in 1974) to help other mom athletes pay for childcare.
The Power of She Fund: Child Care Grants are part of a $200,000 fund that will be divided into $10,000 grants for a number of professional athletes. Through Aug. 31, athletes who play any sport can apply for a $10,000 childcare grant, and the recipients of the grants will be announced in October.
Felix tweeted about the new initiative on July 13, writing that she believes “athletes should not have to choose between motherhood and competition.”
Much work to be done here, but I believe alongside @Athleta and @WomensSportsFdn that athletes should not have to choose between motherhood and competition. Let’s keep pushing🖤 #PowerOfShe https://t.co/dKGHSXGa4C
— Allyson Felix (@allysonfelix) July 14, 2021
Felix has found a supportive sponsor in Athleta, but most athletes don’t benefit from big sponsorship deals, making the road to the Olympics that much more difficult.
So far, nine athletes have been announced as recipients of a $10,000 award (including six who are headed to the Tokyo Olympics):
- Gwendolyn Berry — track and field
- Natasha Hastings — track and field
- Kaleo Kanahele Maclay — sitting volleyball
- Natalie Schneider — wheelchair basketball
- Elana Meyers Taylor — bobsled
- Aliphine Tuliamukc — track and field
- Lora Webster — sitting volleyball
- Jamie Whitmore — paracycling
- Mariel Zagunis — fencing
Felix has been an outspoken advocate for athletes balancing a career and motherhood. Back in 2019, she exposed Nike’s attempt to cut her pay by 70% after the birth of her daughter in an op-ed piece for The New York Times.
“But pregnancy is not messing up; for women, it can and should be able to be part of a thriving professional athletic career, as my teammates have shown and I hope to show too,” Felix wrote. “And I dream of a day when we don’t have to fight in order to try.”
Lora Webster, a Paralympic volleyball athlete and one of the first recipients of the childcare grants, spoke with Fast Company about the impact of the $10,000 award.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that this grant is life-changing,” Webster told Fast Company. “It’s not just the money: It’s that big companies are now beginning to understand what the struggle really is for mom athletes.”
And that is exactly what Felix hopes to accomplish with this program, which is just the start of her plans to bring equity into the world of athletic competition.
“The only way we’ll see real change is if we all learn to raise our voices and ask for what we need,” Felix told CNBC. “When I think about the world that Cammy will grow up in, I don’t want her — or any other woman or girl — to have to fight the battles that I fought.”