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Advice

Abby Wambach: Equal Rights Shouldn’t Be a Privilege

Feb. 26, 2016

'I know what it feels like to be looked at differently'

Now that I’ve retired from the soccer field, I’m making it my mission to ensure that all people feel like they have the same rights as anybody else. The fact that people are still subject to discrimination, whether it’s based on their race, their religion, their gender or their sexual orientation, is absolutely insane.

Being a woman who happens to be gay, you get a real up-close look at inequality. I know what it feels like to be looked at differently, treated differently. At times, I’ve been able to palpably feel people’s discomfort around me. How have I dealt with being treated this way? I summoned an over-the-top kind of confidence and just threw myself out there. I may not change your views on sexuality, but I’ll at least start a conversation with you.

If you don’t like me, that’s not my problem. Not my worry, either. I am not really sure why, but I have found I connect with a lot of people. Men, women and kids are intrigued by me for whatever reason. I’m just being myself, unapologetically.

Sure, it was probably easier for me to build that confidence because I was so good on the soccer field. But I believe everybody has something at which they are fantastic. To find it, you just have to ask yourself, “What’s my real purpose?” Before you walk into your world of work, make sure you know why you’re walking into it. Know the why, and you’ll never steer yourself wrong.

Right now, for example, I’m passionate about equitable opportunity and pay. We need to narrow the gender pay gap because it sends a strong message. We also need more women in business leadership positions. It’s about fairness, but for companies, it’s also about the bottom line: A recent study, for example, found that companies with at least one woman on their executive boards outperform companies with all-male boards.

And what about a woman in the White House? Whether you agree with Hillary Clinton’s policies or not, the symbolism of a woman being president and in the Oval Office is beyond exciting to me. Think about the 15-year-old girl looking up to a woman president and walking a little taller. Then think about the 15-year-old boy looking at his friend and thinking she could possibly be president one day—that slight shift in subconscious gender norms. In my opinion, this could actually change the world and the way we all operate in it.

Abby Wambach is the all-time leading scorer in international soccer history and helped lead the U.S. women’s national soccer team to Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2012 and the 2015 World Cup.