We've always been huge fans of tennis superstar and all-around badass Serena Williams, but we fell even more in love with her today at #BlogHer17. During a keynote discussion with SheKnows President Samantha Skey, Williams talked about her new partnership to fight domestic violence, explained why "pressure is a privilege" and encouraged women to go after every win — no matter how big or small.
Ahead, 10 of the most fascinating things we learned about Williams today.
Williams announced this week that she's partnering with Allstate Foundation Purple Purse, a program aimed at ending domestic violence through financial empowerment.
Doing that starts with understanding the concept of financial abuse. Simply put, it's when a victim of domestic violence is financially dependent on their abuser, leading to a cycle that can be almost impossible to escape.
"My whole life has been really dedicated to getting involved with helping people and helping women and just human rights" in general, Williams said. "The Purple Purse Foundation deals with financial abuse. Domestic violence really spoke to me because the statistics are so high, and over 99 percent of domestic abuse victims are actually financially abused. Who knew that number even existed? It's really something that I think people kind of overlook. It's an invisible form of abuse that people don't really know about."
She added that abuse victims "really have no other option if they don’t have any financial ways to save themselves. They end up staying, and it keeps repeating itself, so it’s really important for us to bring some awareness."
Williams also shared this heartbreaking video produced by Allstate Foundation Purple Purse to help spread the foundation's message. Watch it below, and then be like Serena and get involved. The stakes are way too high to sit by.
Williams' sister Yetunde Price, aka Tunde, was killed in 2003 after she was hit by a bullet while driving her car through Compton, just a mile away from where Venus and Serena learned to play tennis. That unimaginable loss led Venus, Serena and their loved ones to take action.
"Tunde was the oldest, and she was that voice and that leader for our family. She kind of took care of us and she was a great person. Unfortunately, she passed [due to] violence, so we wanted to bring awareness. We are from Compton," Williams explained. "We opened the Yetunde Price Resource Center. You go there and you get resources and help for things you need. For us — we had wonderful resources... There are three children my sister left behind. [With] those resources we were able to help and they were able to continue their lives as best as they could... [But] not everyone has that safe support system."
If Williams could be in London next month for Wimbledon, it's pretty obvious she would. While on stage at BlogHer, Serena had a slight Freudian slip in response to a question about fearless women.
"Yeah, we all are winning. We're winning Wimbledon,” she said, quickly correcting herself: "Winning women." After some laughs, she clarified, “I had a flashback... But [Wimbledon] is around the corner, it’s like next week, so I'm having a little withdrawal right now."
Hopefully, we'll see post-baby Serena back on the courts next year.
Serena looks fantastic! I bet she could walk onto the court right now and win championships.— Ann Bedge (@AnnBedge) June 23, 2017
"Women don’t always have to fit into this mold. I never fit into it. I was different. I'm strong and I'm proud of it. Winning is something to be proud of," she said.
And just because you're not an athlete, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have the drive to win.
"It can be at Wimbledon or it can be in your office, you know? It can be winning that position to go higher or keeping taking those steps to get higher in your company. We shouldn't be afraid to want to be better, we should want to be the best."
"The one thing I never want to live with is regrets, so everything I do, I try to do hard. I try to do it as intently as I can in that moment. I also spread that word [to others] to do the same,” Williams said.
By the way, ICYMI, she’s not only set that bar high for women, she’s set it high in general. She's won 23 more grand slams — that's not just more than any other woman in history, it's more than any other human in history. Talk about groundbreaking.
"Silicon Valley really, really, really is not open yet to having a lot of women, having anyone of color now... Those two areas alone are really things we have to break down, and the fastest growing part of the world is technology."
That's why, at the beginning of 2017, Williams gave herself a goal to take herself, her entrepreneurship and her philanthropy to the next level by becoming a board member at a major company. That’s when Sheryl Sandberg — whose late husband, Dave Goldberg, was CEO of SurveyMonkey — came calling. After an interview, Williams was offered (and accepted) her own spot on the company's board of directors. (Sandberg also currently has a seat.) It was pretty consistent with the way Williams lives her life: She sets a goal, and then she brings it to life faster than most people ever could.
"That was really important for me, and not only just to sit there and keep the seat warm, but to really be a voice and be a conduit and try to make a change and make a difference" in Silicon Valley, she said.
If anyone feels pressure to perform, it's Williams. But she doesn't necessarily view that as a negative thing, which is a motto she picked up from tennis great Billie Jean King.
"Every time I play, I have all this pressure on me to win, which is not easy. It's really not easy to go out there every day when it's a much bigger story to lose than to win. And everyone's like, 'Oh, she's going to win anyway and blah, blah, blah.' That's a lot," Williams said. "It’s like [when] you have a company and you’re expected to perform... I realize that’s a privilege. I would love to have a company one day [where] if I’m performing a little bit lower than I would want, everyone would be shocked. That's a good thing, and that’s a privilege to be in my situation. And it’s also a way to take a lot of pressure off of yourself and build yourself to be even greater."
"My mom has always been so strong for me. She's been the woman that is just literally unbreakable. It’s something I've always looked up to and I think all my sisters look up to. So, in the midst of having a child, all of a sudden you start to think of lessons your parents taught you, especially my mom... I feel like all those lessons that she taught me of being so strong, of being proud of who I am, of being able to look anyone in the face and have confidence and speak with so much confidence is something I really have been able to embrace, and I would love to teach my kid that.”
She also noted that her dad was no slouch, either.
"One thing that stands out for me today is just the discipline" her dad taught her, she said. "Right now, kids, grown-ups, teenagers, anyone really needs a lot of discipline. [If] you're starting your own company, you need to have the discipline to do it every day, day in and day out. [People] absolutely need the discipline to go to work every single day. And I feel, just as a person, being a good person — giving back to the community — supporting girls, supporting women, whatever you choose to do — it takes a lot of discipline. I feel like my dad was able give me so much discipline and structure in my life that it’s something I never really thought about until a couple days ago, really. I just love that I'm still appreciating all the things my parents have given me.”
One of our favorite questions to ask successful people is what advice they would give their seventh-grade selves. You know, that wide-eyed 12-year-old version of yourself, teetering on the precipice between childhood and adulthood; curious, eager and maybe a little scared. But when we pitched the question to Williams, she had a take that surprised us in the best way: She wouldn't give her younger self any tips.
"I feel like everything I went through — bad, good, great — made me who I am today, and I wouldn't be sitting here if I had my little cheat sheet of what to do. I just really feel like people have to make mistakes," she explained. "People have to fall, because like I always say, the greater you isn't how you fall, but it's how you get up and how you can become stronger. Do you just lie down and stay there, or do you get up and dust yourself off and become better? I think it's really important to go through life's experiences, as hard as they are."
Except for one thing: "I would say invest all your money in Facebook. But other than that, I wouldn't say anything."
"I travel internationally and I've sat with the heads of so many [companies] and there's usually not a single woman or person of color in there, so I think that's something that can be addressed on a global scale," Williams said.
"Also, sticking up for one another, and particularly women. I feel like women do stick up for one another and don't get enough credit for it. I play with only women, and I go in the locker room and I see a lot of camaraderie and we all hang out. It's like one big family. So I feel like spreading it to the next generation — that it's OK to love and OK to be really friendly and be competitive at the same time, [that's] something I'd like to see a little more of."
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