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Olympian Allyson Felix is empowering women to get ahead in their careers by saying ‘No’

·National Reporter & Producer
·3 min read
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Olympic Track and Field athlete Allyson Felix, who famously said "No" to Nike (NKE), now wants to empower other women to get ahead in their careers by saying “No.”

After becoming the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete in Olympic history, Felix has partnered with Pure Leaf Tea and The SeekHer Foundation to give away $1 million in "No" grants over the course of three years as a way to support women in the workplace.

The idea for the grants came from a study Pure Leaf conducted that found that when women say “No” in the workplace to extra hours, overscheduling, and additional responsibilities, they risk up to $1,400 in future earning potential.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Women's 4 x 400m Relay - Final - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - August 7, 2021. Allyson Felix of the United States in action REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Allyson Felix of the United States in action during the women's 4x400m relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on August 7, 2021. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Felix was placed in a similar situation when she decided to walk away from a lucrative Nike contract in 2019 in protest of the company's lack of maternity and postpartum protections for athletes.

"I didn't know what the actual cost was going to be. But I knew it was going to be big. And I knew that I would feel the effect of that," Felix told Yahoo Finance (video above). "And I think that's why it's just so important that this is a great step to be able to say that we want to cover those costs and help on a daily basis to be able to start putting women in position to be able to say no."

Following public outcry, Nike has since guaranteed pay for athletes around pregnancy, and other athletic apparel companies have followed suit. As for Felix, she has opted to sign contracts with other brands like Athleta and compete under her own label, Saysh.

Felix highlighted that the ordeal with Nike was "a really difficult experience" during a time when she should have been celebrating and said she "felt like it was an opportunity to be able to really speak my truth and to talk about that and to really try to secure those protections for women to come.”

“Sometimes it can be really difficult to speak out in a really public way," she added. "But I think we can all start within our own circles and be able to speak up in smaller ways.”

Aug 7, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Allyson Felix (USA) celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's 4x400 relay final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Allyson Felix (USA) celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's 4x400 relay final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

More and more women are beginning to speak up about equal pay and workplace conditions — including the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national soccer team, who successfully advocated for pay equity for their prowess on the field last month.

"I think it was a huge win what happened in women's soccer, but it was a long fight," Felix said. “We need allies in the space to really have true equality.”

Felix added that she hopes the "No" grants will help push women forward in their respective fields in all sectors.

According to Pew Research, women currently make 84 cents to every dollar a man makes, despite female leaders outperforming male leaders across more than a dozen categories, including driving results and innovation, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study.

“I think that we have to celebrate our wins along the way, but we have to keep pushing forward to make sure that we are actually experiencing equality and seeing that financially,” Felix said.

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