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These Female Athletes Are Smashing the Patriarchy

If you missed the #WinningWomen panel at #BlogHer17, you really missed something special (but don’t worry, I’m here to catch you up). Five incredibly talented, successful and fierce athletes discussed the hurdles and barriers women face in the male dominated world of sports.

Donna Orender – former president of the WNBA and herself a former pro basketball player – moderated the conversation with 17-year-old Olympic Gold gymnast Laurie Hernandez; world-renowned pro volleyball player (not to mention TV personality, author, model, wife and mother) Gabrielle Reece; founder and commissioner of the National Women’s Hockey League, Dani Rylan; and Jessi Miley-Dyer, a pro surfer-turned-women’s commissioner for the World Surf League.

Their attitudes were powerful, their energies contagious and they left us all with a call to action to find our team, do better, be better, and support one another through it all. Because as Serena Williams said, when one woman wins, we all win.

More: 10 Things We Learned About Serena Williams at #BlogHer17

Here are the best quotes from the panel that will empower you to try, fail, and pick yourself up until you win this crazy game of life: 

On Empowering Yourself

Dani Rylan at BlogHer17
Image: Gabriela Arellano/SheKnows

Dani Rylan: “Be bold and be confident… Pump yourself up. There’s sometimes doubt when you know that you’re breaking so many barriers and that you’re accomplishing so much. It kind of feels like there’s always a constant uphill battle… [Take it] one step at a time. Take things off the checklist and get it done because at the end of the day you believe in it and you know that it’s meant to be here.”

Gabrielle Reece: “There is so much strength and power in being loving because there is nothing stronger than that, and so I want to remind women, when they’re in business, don’t act like men. Just be really strong, badass women. Because the love part – I think we feel like we have to act like a guy. You don’t.”

Donna Orender: “Women: When we team up we are incredibly powerful. Find someone to team up with… Our voices collectively really do make a difference, and change and perspective is worth fighting for.”

On the Power of Sports

Laurie Hernandez at BlogHer17
Image: Gabriela Arellano/SheKnows

Laurie Hernandez: “There are probably so many little girls out there who would be incredible athletes for the future and maybe they didn’t have the opportunity to do it because they didn’t know it existed. So I think that it’s really important to show a lot of love to sports because sports have really shaped who I am today, and it can shape so many girls out there, and give them life lessons they might not have known they needed.”

Jessi Miley-Dyer: “Sports really taught me, more than anything, to really vocalize my ambition and to be ambitious and to set goals and to want to be the best at what i want to do…. For me, competition is really about being the best version of myself that I can be.”

Dani Rylan: “Being able to be a part of a team is something that translates to the business world, as well as communication and team work, and understanding the importance of empowering people around you and bringing them up and really working together.”

Gabrielle Reece: “It teaches us to communicate in sometimes a very matter of fact way, which you need in business. Women like to talk about it, right? We have to get work done and then we freak out and we finally tell you how we feel versus saying I’m sorry that doesn’t work for me and really voicing that… I think that’s another really powerful thing about sports, which is just communicating with no emotion and just being matter of fact and not apologizing for that.”

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On Changing Stereotypes

Gabrielle Reece at BlogHer17
Image: Gabriela Arellano/SheKnows

Gabrielle Reece: “Obviously there’s a lot of things we all need to continue to work on. Not just for women but for humans. I would hope that we take it on with a proactive voice, and I don’t mean a victimized voice… As women if we could say, ‘This doesn’t feel good, I’m going to do something about it,’ I think that can be a very proactive and powerful thing. All of you have that voice and that ability.”

Dani Rylan: ”It wasn’t until recently that little girls were able to look up at the TV every four years and see ice hockey and say, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ And so I think that’s a huge part of what we need to commit to – providing more opportunities and exposure… [Allowing] little girls to dream as big as their brothers and [give them that] see it, dream it, be it mentality.”

Donna Orender: “The visibility of strong women that choose to do things that matter, that they’re passionate about, allows other young women to see what’s possible for them.”

On Celebrating Greatness Regardless of Gender

#WinningWomen panel at BlogHer17
Image: Gabriela Arellano/SheKnows

Gabrielle Reece: “It isn’t about the men. It’s about celebrating greatness. Because the men are big, strong and fast and they’re awesome. Women are [too], if they’re working hard and they’re great at their game. So I think the narrative isn’t when we get like men, no… The men are awesome, let’s celebrate them. We want to celebrate excellence.”

Donna Orender: “I heard this a lot. I heard ‘You are not the NBA,’ and I would say, ‘That’s exactly our point!’ They are who they are, in all their greatness. But we are who we are, in all of our greatness. And the problem is, the message is so imbalanced about ‘what is greatness?’ that we are all collectively brainwashed. We become our own worst enemies.”

Dani Rylan: “I think one of the struggles of being a female entrepreneur and sometimes a female athlete with a brand new sports league is combatting the narrative that female sports can’t succeed… Change that mindset. Women don’t have to fail, we can be successful – yes, maybe [it takes] baby steps to get to the same level as the men, but it’s about taking those steps. And [doing] anything to help elevate and raise the water together.”
More: Chelsea Clinton Has Strong Feelings About the Senate’s New Health Bill

If you only glean one lesson from these inspiring superwomen, it should be this: Perseverance fuels passion and there is a lesson to be learned in every failure.

Keep fighting for what you want, and support one another. And someday soon, we will change the world together. It’s already begun.

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