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Abby Wambach’s commencement speech lesson on self-advocacy: ‘Speak up’


Retired soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach says she’s gotten used to “flipping tables” – and he or she desires to pass advice on the right way to advocate for yourself to others.

At Loyola Marymount University’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, Wambach told the undergraduate audience a couple of lesson she’s learned to consistently practice: the right way to rise up for each herself and others. “When you’re the one on the table with the least privilege, speak up,” Wambach, 41, said.

In her speech, Wambach detailed a “fancy meeting” she once attended with Serena Williams and various male executives and athletes. At this meeting, Wambach said, one among the agenda items was: “What do we’d like to learn about women’s experience in sports and media?” But in keeping with Wambach, no person asked her or Williams for his or her opinions. As an alternative, she said, an unnamed NFL quarterback took the lead and started answering the query himself.

“[He] began speaking with great authority for a really very long time about women’s sports, at a table with Serena Williams and me,” Wambach said. “I sat there silently for too long. I used to be internally screaming at myself, ‘Why are you being silent?’

Despite Wambach’s storied soccer profession – she is a six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the 12 months award, and was the world’s top goal scorer across men’s and girls’s soccer when she retired in 2015 – she said her first instinct was still to be deferential at that table. “I wanted the opposite powerful men on the table to see me as a team player,” she said.

As soon as she realized why she felt uncomfortable interjecting, Wambach said, she raised her hand and cut into the conversation, interrupting the quarterback mid-speech. By her account, the quarterback – and everybody else within the meeting – fell silent, and Wambach and Williams led the remaining of the conversation.

“It’s totally tempting, after we finally make it to the table, to do every little thing we are able to to remain there,” Wambach said. “We expect we’re there to preserve our seat, as an alternative of remembering we’re there to make use of our seat.”

Wambach didn’t name the particular event she and Williams attended, or immediately reply to CNBC Make It’s request for clarification.

Wambach said her days of flipping tables aren’t over by a protracted shot. She referenced tension between the U.S. women’s national soccer team and its governing body, the U.S. Soccer Federation, noting that the federation is currently “widely and disproportionately male-led.”

In February, the team and the federation reached a $24 million settlement in an equal pay lawsuit, wherein the federation agreed to be certain that the ladies’s and men’s teams are paid at an equal rate in any respect tournaments – including the World Cup.

On the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Russia, France’s team was awarded $38 million by FIFA for winning the championship. On the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, the U.S. team only received $4 million for its second straight title, and fourth for the reason that tournament’s inception in 1991.

“We have won 4 World Cup championships – well, the [U.S. men’s team hasn’t] yet won one,” Wambach said. “They have a likelihood this yr, OK. And I shall be cheering for them, because one among my core beliefs is that boys can do anything that girls can do.”

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