Delivering a message of female empowerment and equal rights, Abby Wambach, former member of the U.S. women’s soccer national team and two-time Olympic gold medalist, spoke at the Performing Arts Center Tuesday, with former teammate Brandi Chastain joining her on stage.
“Not only are (Wambach and I) friends, but we were teammates. And we are in the same business of trying to help support young women and girls so they may find their true potential and have the world see them for who they are.”
Wambach holds the current record for the most international goals scored among women’s soccer players, as well as the record for the most domestic goals in California.
During her career as a professional athlete, the U.S. women’s team won the Women’s World Cup in 2015.
According to Wambach, after retiring from soccer, she felt passionate about fighting for women’s rights and decided she would dedicate the rest of her life to trying to solve inequalities between the sexes.
In fact, on International Women’s Day on March 8, the U.S. women’s soccer national team filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, claiming discrimination.
“I know this lawsuit is not just about more money in their bank account,” Wambach said. “That’s not what this is about. This is about respect. This is about freedom. On average, a woman who does the same job as a man has to work for 12 years longer to earn the same amount of money.”
Wambach said she plans to provide emotional and monetary support to help the women’s team win the lawsuit.
According to Wambach, the U.S. Soccer is a not-for-profit organization, but the organization has $100 million in its bank account and doesn’t use it to benefit the women’s team.
“It’s not because we’re unappreciative,” Wambach said. “It’s because the mission statement of U.S. Soccer is to grow the game and the United States, not just grow the game for the men in the United States.”
Wambach’s recently published book, titled “Wolfpack,” aims to encourage young girls to foster a tough, pack mentality, and sends the message that women should band together and demand their rights.
“Women have their tribes and their pack in high school and in college, and they stick together,” Wambach said. “But then you go into the business world, or you going to the work world, or you get married and you have children, and then you become alone. You just are isolated, and you just lose that pack mentality, and the only way that women can actually achieve real success is if they have people around them that are supporting them.”
She also said that a pack mentality — by supporting women and joining their ‘pack’ — is one way men can help eliminate discrimination based on sex, especially in sports.
“Men can learn a little bit about what we’ve been going through on a daily basis and learn a little bit about the insidious behavior that sometimes can creep up on us. All of us.”
According to Wambach, one of her main goals in writing her book is to encourage girls to become aware of how they have been conditioned by society to have a mindset where they feel grateful about something instead of feeling pride.
“Women have to embody and understand that everything that they’ve done in their life has gotten them to a certain point,” Wambach said. “Nobody’s giving (them) anything, (They) are earning it. And once you start to have that mindset, you believe that you can be grateful, both things can be true at the same time. You can be grateful and demand what you want.”
She also said she hopes to inspire girls from around the world to uplift each other and use each other’s success as healthy competition, as opposed to being jealous of others’ success.
“If you score a goal,” Wambach said. “And a teammate runs to you and she’s celebrating with you, then she’s a good teammate. But a lot of times what you see is girls initially get jealous or envious of each other.”
This is what it was like on the women’s national team, she said.
“That competition had a positive connotation,” Wambach said. “It was about getting better and pushing one another to our absolute limit. And ultimately, at the end of our team winning.”
Above all, Wambach said she wants to dedicate her life to ensure equality between the sexes in her lifetime.
“My message is we have to find a way to bridge this gap in figuring out how to make human being seen as equals is my mission on this planet.” Wambach said.
Wambach’s appearance at Palo Alto High School was co-sponsored by Books, Inc. and the Paly Media Arts Boosters, with a percentage of the funds raised through ticket sales going to the MAC Boosters to benefit Paly’s media arts program.