Disrupt and Include: Billie Jean King on gender, social justice


Billie Jean King

Crushing stereotypes and inspiring diversity at every level is a story only Billie Jean King can tell. At this afternoon’s Main Stage, the tennis champion and social activist shares her personal story of gender and social justice.

King, whose session is sponsored by San Francisco Travel, became an icon in the fight for gender parity in sports and the workplace when she competed against Bobby Riggs 45 years ago in a match known as the Battle of the Sexes. Riggs framed the match as a test of whether women could compete with men. Her victory was a seminal moment in sports history — and the women’s movement.

Since then, the now 75-year-old trailblazer has continued to champion social justice and equality.

King co-founded World Team Tennis (WTT), the revolutionary professional team tennis league, a year after the momentous Riggs match. Later, she founded the Women’s Sports Foundation. In August 2006, the National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of her accomplishments on and off the court.

Named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by LIFE magazine, King’s greatest desire is to empower the next generation with tools to do better than the generation before. In 2009, in recognition of her work in the social justice arena and her accomplishments in sports, President Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

In 2014, King and her partner, Ilana Kloss, launched the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI) to address inclusion and diversity issues in the workplace. The initiative’s three pillars — lift, learn, and lead — are dedicated to inspiring those in positions of power to promote diverse identities and to challenge the status quo.

Convene content partner Ascent wrote this story.