In 1973, the year tennis star Billie Jean King trounced self-proclaimed “male chauvinist pig” Bobby Riggs in the now-legendary “Battle of the Sexes” exhibition match, a married woman couldn’t get a credit card on her own—the application had to be co–signed by her husband.
Speaking on a panel at the 2013 Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit in Kimmel’s Rosenthal Pavilion on December 13, King mused on how much has changed for women since then—and on how much has stayed the same.
The powerful advocate for equal pay and LGBTQ rights was one among a group of women—leading entrepreneurs, researchers, and editors—who gathered to talk frankly about the lingering gender pay gap, financial benefits to companies who hire women to leadership positions, and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposed legislation for paid family and medical leave before an audience of students, faculty, businesswomen, and elected officials.
Gillibrand herself couldn’t make it—she was pulled away for a Congressional vote—but she called in to express her support for the stimulating discussion that she aims to bring to Washington.
Here are just nine of the striking ideas to come out of the event:
“Don’t work in companies that don’t value you. Bring your talent somewhere where women have been successful, and let those companies be rewarded.”
“I always ask myself to get uncomfortable. That’s when we grow, that’s when we learn. If we stay in our comfort zone it’s a very boring life.”
—Billie Jean King
There’s a difference between image and presence. We need to develop our presence. We need to move away from worrying about how we look and whether we’re wearing the highest heels and toward thinking about how to present ourselves as accomplished, talented, forward-thinking women.
“The idea that working is a choice for most women is a fantasy. We work because we love to work, but also because we have to work and the whole economy is predicated on the fact that we’re going to.”
“Moms make great executives for all the reasons they make great moms. If we don’t find a way to keep moms in the workforce in this country, we will never be successful.”
If you know someone who has amazing leadership qualities, just tap her on the shoulder and tell her. They say that women don’t run for office unless someone asks them to. I think it’s the same: people don’t go for the big jobs unless someone says you know, you can do this.
“There’s a big difference between flex time and flexibility. We have to teach companies that it’s much more valuable to be able to attend your child’s play or doctor’s appointment than it is to have to pretend to work from home on Fridays. The reality, because of technology, is that we’re working 24/7 anyway.”
“If the gender pay gap were closed, the U.S. GDP would grow up 9%, the Euro GDP by 11%, and the Japanese GDP by 13%.”
“I think it’s really important that each of you reach out and say your truth to others. We want each of us to go through every single day as our authentic selves.
—Billie Jean King