&Mother and Oiselle Set New Gold Standard for Gender Equity in Sports
November 17, 2021
The Partners Publicly Release Model Sponsorship Contract Provisions for Pregnancy and Parental Leave for Professional Athletes
BERKELEY, CA & SEATTLE, WA – NOVEMBER 17TH, 2021 /SPORTSWIRE WOMEN/ — &Mother, a social change nonprofit focused on gender equity and working motherhood, and Oiselle, a by women for women apparel brand, announced the public release of recommended contractual provisions for sponsored athletes to support pregnancy, postpartum recovery, and parental leave. The initial goal of the work and public release is to provide an easily accessible, gold standard model for any athlete, brand, or agent to adopt. The Model Sponsorship Contract Provisions for Pregnancy and Parental Leave is available here.
Contracts between athletes and sponsors rarely make it into the public space, and there is no standard for including or adapting an adequate and appropriate pregnancy and parental leave policy for sponsored athletes. This lack of standards around sponsor support is a key barrier to the success of athletes, especially female athletes, who may or may not start a family during their athletic career.
“Harm and exploitation live in the shadows. Pro athlete contracts are notoriously hush hush, and that secrecy is part of the problem, especially for women athletes, “ said Sally Bergesen, Founder and CEO of Oiselle. “As a brand that writes contracts, we knew we had an opportunity to not only solidify parental protections for Oiselle pro athletes, but perhaps more importantly, to offer these clauses as best practices for the industry, able to be used by any athlete, agent or brand.”
Working with lawyer, Cynthia Calvert at Workforce 21c, the team interviewed stakeholders across the industry – from athletes to managers to brands – to arrive at concise, legal language that reflects both the unique challenges and opportunities for how athletes return to competition and other types of promotional work on a healthy timeline during and after pregnancy. In addition, the included parental leave clause contains language that applies to any gender and any family structure.
“We started by listening and prioritizing the voices of athletes because our goal was to craft language that truly reflects the best path to support pregnancy and parenthood during a professional athlete’s career.” said Molly Dickens, Co-Founder and Executive Director of &Mother. “In addition to a flexible pregnancy and postpartum recovery provision, the parental leave provision aims to break the expectation that a person giving birth is the only one who needs the time away after welcoming a child. The provisions can and should be adopted for everyone.”
The United States is currently one of six countries in the world that lacks a federal paid leave policy. With ongoing discussion as to the extent to which paid leave will be included in the Build Back Better Infrastructure bill, having private companies step up to improve their own internal policies makes a critical statement. By adopting the Model Provisions or building on their own contractual clauses to support parental leave, leaders in the sports industry have an opportunity to elevate the conversation and set an important example of adaptive policies, especially for contractors and workers with physical job requirements.
“Having leaders in the sports industry standing up for better policy can open up space to talk about those who still lack access to these allowances.” said Annie Sartor, Senior Director of Business Partnerships at PL+US, a national campaign to win paid family and medical leave by 2022, “The policy language for athletes giving birth — allowing more time and having physical accommodations for pregnancy and postpartum recovery — is an important example for low-wage earners who also have physical jobs. Without similar protections, female workers leave the workforce and that results in a lifetime of reduced wage earnings.”
Eventually, &Mother and Oiselle hope to see provisions for pregnancy and parenting become standardized in all contracts for both male and female athletes at any age or stage of signing in order to have a real impact on gender equality in sports.
“Asking for the word pregnancy to appear in a contract can feel like putting a target on your back.” explains Alysia Montaño, &Mother Co-Founder who wrote about lack of sponsor support for motherhood in a 2019 NY Times op-ed.“You can be a champion and a mother. There is no reason to push women out of the prime of their career if they decide to start a family. We need to break the assumption that a career ends when babies come along.”
Several brands have already demonstrated their commitment to supporting athletes’ parenting journeys, including Montaño’s current sponsors, Cadenshae and Altra Running, along with Burton, Athleta, HOKA One One, Picky Bars + Laird Superfood, Nuun Hydration, Rabbit, and Salomon. &Mother and Oiselle are encouraging other brands to show their support and commitment to working parents by signing onto the project here.
Athletes, agents, and brands looking to adopt the provisions or tailor their own contracts with essential elements of support can find the provisions here, alongside an overview of how and why to implement supportive language into contracts.
&Mother is a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the barriers that limit a woman’s choice to pursue and thrive in both career and motherhood. Building on the momentum of the #DreamMaternity movement, a call for action and awareness around the lack of sponsor support for female athletes choosing to become mothers during their athletic careers, &Mother was founded in 2020 to transition the movement to impact across industries. Their first initiative centers on creating cultural and structural change within the sports industry. Join the community on Instagram and Twitter and connect with us at www.andmother.org.
Oiselle is a women’s athletic apparel company that balances community and design. Following its first quest to create non-poofy shorts in 2007, the company has grown steadily as an independent brand that now designs and distributes a full range of competition and lifestyle apparel, online and at its University Village flagship store in Seattle. The company sponsors world-class athletes, has a virtual and IRL community for women athletes called the Volée, and gives back to communities in need through its Bras for Girls sports bra donation program. Oiselle is headquartered in Magnuson Park, Seattle, Washington. Follow Oiselle on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.