Did you think we were done talking about Serena?
The rest of the internet and I are still thinking about her piece last week in Vogue magazine, when she announced that she’d be retiring from (or evolving past, as she puts it) tennis to focus on her family and business. Even though her decision to step away is bittersweet — as one article I read put it, “if she can’t have it all, who can?” — there were so many things to love about how and what she wrote about it. I went on NPR with Michel Martin over the weekend to talk about why it was so moving.
If reading is more your thing, here are the five reasons why I loved her essay:
Reason 1: Having conquered sports, Serena is now turning to the world of money.
We need more women talking unapologetically about money — about making money, investing money, and not getting enough money. Women still receive such sneaky-bad messaging about money (remember that report that found that two-thirds of money articles directed at women characterize them as “excessive spenders”?), while Serena is already setting her new standard by talking about investing in women. She dominated tennis — and now she’s turning that champion’s focus toward women and wealth-building.
Reason 2: Serena is using her voice, her money, and her firm to make an impact by investing in start-ups run by white women and people of color.
She knows that not only is it the right thing to do, it’s smart business. As I told the House Financial Services Committee last month, women founders raise just 2% of venture capital dollars — Black women and Latina founders less than 1% — even as their businesses outperform men’s.
I especially loved this part, when Serena heard that 2% statistic: “I kind of understood then and there that someone who looks like me needs to start writing the big checks. Sometimes like attracts like. Men are writing those big checks to one another, and in order for us to change that, more people who look like me need to be in that position, giving money back to themselves.” (Cut to me, clapping in my office.)
Reason 3: She’s talking about playing like the guys, using her network to invest with other women.
For so long, men have approached business as a team sport, whereas women have (had to) approach it as an individual sport. (Out of necessity, in many cases — because there have historically been so few of us.)
But that’s changing. It’s how we got our Series B raise done at Ellevest — by tapping into our broader community, rather than depending solely on traditional venture capitalists (read: men. So. Many. Men). I’m seeing more and more women coming together in business to do the same, recognizing that these relationships with other women can be a superpower. There’s strength in numbers, and Serena knows it.
Reason 4: She wants to redefine “retirement.”
“I have never liked the word retirement,” she wrote. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me … Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”
If you’ve been following us at Ellevest, you know we all loved this part over here. Most women will have non-linear careers, for a bunch of reasons: We live longer, so we have longer to develop new interests and get bored of old ones. We have kids, so we may take more career breaks. Our lives and relationships with work can just be different, for both better and worse, and Serena’s evolution is a perfect example, even though it was a tough decision for her to make. That’s why at Ellevest, we encourage women to imagine and plan for their own (flexible) concept of retirement.
For all of us, Serena’s modern definition of retirement is one that we can envision, on some level: She achieved a level of success, it brought her financial stability, and that stability will now allow her to step back and pursue a new chapter, one with greater freedom and security to do more of what matters to her. That’s something everyone can plan for, whether you’re aiming to retire at 65 or 40.
Reason 5: She announced it in Vogue.
Not Sports Illustrated. Not Forbes. Vogue. I mean, come on. Iconic.
Will Serena do for money what she and Venus (who, by the way, is an investor in Ellevest) have done for sports? Turning a white boys club into something much more diverse and interesting? I for one can’t wait to hear the new slogan on Wall Street: “I wanna be like Serena.”
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