8 March 2020 | Tennis Australia

Billie Jean King’s inspirational efforts in founding the WTA in the 1973 on the principle of equal opportunities for women in sport has long been one of the most significant chapters in the history of the sport.

But the WTA legend’s commitment to equality was sparked many years earlier, when she experienced an epiphany while looking around tennis courts as a 13-year-old and said to herself: “Everyone is white. Where is everyone else?”

King related that important turning point as the keynote speaker at the Change Our Game International Women’s Day Lunch in Melbourne on 6 March, which was hosted by the Victorian Government’s Office for Women in Sport and Recreation.

She recalled this moment as a driver for her change, remarking that “everyone deserves an opportunity” and that “girls are taught to be perfect and boys are taught to be brave (which is) not right for either gender”.

While offering a terrific reflection on her tennis career and extensive advocacy for gender equality, King also delivered a call to action for women (and men) to keep pushing for equality and women to be able to “live their dreams”.

There was also an important acknowledgment of the legacy of Australian players Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid, the only non-American members of the “Original 9” group of women, whose brave efforts helped established the WTA.

“Every Australian tennis player should kiss their feet every day they see them,” said King. “Without them, they would not be getting the big cheques standing there at the Australian Open.”

The group’s founding principles that any girl should in the world get a chance to play, should be appreciated for her accomplishments and should be able to make a living in tennis are now a happy reality for many women on tour.

Asked if women’s sport has measured up to those important early expectations, King noted the many opportunities to build on current levels of success. “I always hope for more, because I’m a perfectionist. I certainly want more than we have,” she said.

“But gosh, there’s been a real surge in the last two years. We are just starting to see change happening now.”

Hrdlicka: Shared values secret to success

A culture of support, shared values and the constant quest for improvement were among the key messages of a welcome address delivered by Tennis Australia chair Jayne Hrdlicka at the Global Victoria Women’s Business Summit (GVw 2020), hosted by the Victorian Government.

“You need people who you can lean on when things don’t go right the way they should. And when someone who means well but does wrong needs to be pulled up on,” Hrdlicka related.

“If you find yourself in an environment where you’re not with people who share your values and you’re not with people who will back you up, then you have to have the courage to leave.”

Jayne Hrdlicka at the inaugural GVw2020 summit.

Jayne Hrdlicka at the inaugural GVw2020 summit.

It’s proven a successful approach for Hrdlicka, the first female to lead Tennis Australia in the organisation’s long history. Also a highly successful businesswoman, Hrdlicka was among many influential figures to participate at the inaugural all-women business summit.

Running from 5-8 March, the Victorian Government initiative – which was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day – welcomed delegates from 19 countries to connect and exchange ideas with Victorian leaders in sport, STEM, medtech, transport and infrastructure, international business and government and champion a gender-inclusive business world.

While sharing the journey of her professional life, Hrdlicka also related the challenges she has experienced and the consequent lessons she has taken away.

They included the ability to handle setbacks and criticism, which helps build strength. Hrdlicka related that ultimately, women need to be stronger, more resilient and tougher in order to be as accomplished as men.

There’s an equally critical necessity for women to stay true to themselves, listen to others and adapt as situations demand. But the most important message, Hrdlicka related to delegates, is that happiness and success comes down to them.

“Your journey of working hard only produces great results if you’re working on yourself the whole way through,” Hrdlicka stressed.