Read below for my conversation with retired soccer star Abby Wambach about her new book, Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game
Katie Couric: Your 2018 Barnard commencement address quickly went viral. Why do you think it resonated so deeply with so many?
Abby Wambach: I didn’t ever consider whether my speech would go viral or not, but I knew I was prepared to share an important message with as many people as possible. I think this message resonated so deeply because each of us could relate to playing by rules that were never set up for us to win, and to have an innate understanding that there is a better set of rules that could change the game for all of us.
Katie: Who is the “wolfpack?” What are you trying to convey and inspire with that term?
Abby: The Wolfpack is made up of every human who is ready or looking for a way to lead their lives, their careers, their families and our collective future – every person determined to make failure their fuel, challenge the status quo, and empower their Pack to do the same. It signifies our collective power when we unleash our individual power.
The Wolfpack is about the domino effect: When one stands up and demands the ball, the job, the promotion, the paycheck, the microphone, that one gives others permission to do the same. The Wolfpack is ever-present – in success and failure – and knows that love and justice are infinite and meant for all of us. The Wolfpack believes that women who refuse to give up – united together in purpose and passion – cannot lose.
Katie: What has it been like for you to watch the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination? What have you been able to do to support their effort?
Abby: I am so incredibly proud of the women of the USWNT. I view my role in supporting the incredible courage and sacrifice of the USWNT in this lawsuit as three things: 1) helping to debunk the insidious myth that women are paid less money because they bring in less money; 2) using my privilege of being retired to make noise and advance messages that are dangerous for those still inside the sport to make; and three 3) to help expand the conversation from beyond soccer to every corner of global industry.
On the first point, it is clear that institutionalized gender discrimination has existed for decades inside our sport. But it’s always explained away by the fact that men’s soccer purportedly brings in more profit. This myth was unequivocally debunked in 2016 – when U.S. Soccer initially budgeted a $420,000 loss for 2016 but – due to the Women’s team’s profit – changed their numbers to expect a profit of almost $18 million. Again, in 2017, the Women’s team was projected to earn more than $5 million in revenue for the federation, while the men’s team was projected to lose about $1 million (even though U.S. Soccer planned to spend about $1.5 million more on the men’s team).
The bottom line is that since the World Cup in 2015, the women have been more profitable than the men, yet are paid less. Despite winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. women were paid LESS THAN A THIRD of what the U.S. men were paid for losing in the Round of 16. I am honored to be in a position to use my platform to debunk myths and educate people in support of equal pay in soccer and every workplace beyond.
Katie: Do you think athletes have a different relationship with failure than non-athletes? Why do you say that non-athletes “don’t know what to do with the gift of failure?”
Abby: Yes, I think it’s an athlete vs. non-athlete issue for sure. And I also think that there is a gendered perspective of failure that keeps women out of the game, in all areas of life. Imperfect men have been empowered and permitted to run the world since the beginning of time. And I truly believe it’s time for imperfect women to grant themselves permission to join them. The world needs to see women take risks, fail big, and insist on their right to stick around and try again. And again. And again. When women stop pointing to failure as a reason to stop showing up–and instead decide to make failure their fuel–the entire world will benefit.
Katie: Given all that you’ve experienced and learned, what’s the best piece of advice or wisdom you’d like to share with our readers?
Abby: I really believe that in order to lead our communities and world into a better future, we need to champion our Pack. Championing each other can be difficult, because for so long we’ve been pitted against each other for the token seat at the table. Maintaining the illusion of scarcity is how power keeps women competing for the singular seat at the old table, instead of uniting and building a new, bigger table.
The Wolfpack needs to know and believe that scarcity is a lie. A bigger slice for one woman doesn’t mean a smaller slice for another. The Wolfpack knows that love, power, justice, and success – they are infinite and meant for all of us.
So, we clear the way for the Pack. We celebrate each other’s successes. We champion each other. We amplify each other’s voices. And when we do, we will create a better world for ourselves and the generations that follow. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]