The U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team knows how to rack up Ws.
The team recently claimed their fourth consecutive title at the IIHF Women’s World Championship after a 3-2 overtime thriller against archrival Canada. The win serves as a fitting follow-up to the monumental victory won in the boardroom just a few days prior to their triumph on the ice.
After a team boycott over unequal pay and months of contentious contract negotiations among players and their governing body, USA Hockey, an agreement was announced on a four-year deal securing support not only for the players themselves, but also for the future of the sport.
“It’s two storybook endings for us,” veteran player Hilary Knight told The New York Times. “I can’t speak enough of the bond that we created, doing what we did, making history for the next generation.”
It’s hard to imagine this team making such indelible marks on and off the ice without a bit of boldness.
A Time to Be Bold
Of course it took some fortitude to rise to the occasion in front of a home crowd to beat a worthy opponent in overtime. But it also took an incredible amount of boldness to unapologetically fight for pay equity and voice concerns about unequal pay in hopes of receiving a wage. They were willing to give up playing the game they love at an incredibly high level in order to communicate a message worthy of putting down their sticks.
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Choosing to take a stand or trying to claim victory in the pursuit of pay and gender equity is not the easiest decision to make, even for a team that knows how to win and is well acquainted with success. Ask the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
Queens of the tennis court, Venus and Serena Williams, are well aware of the struggle to gain equal pay for equal work, too. So are countless other women at the top of their game and women living at the intersections of race, class, culture, ability and education all around the world.
Some Sisters in the Face of Moses
We’ve seen that working to gain fair compensation, working to be represented equally, working to be listened to and pleading a case for one’s own livelihood and the lives of loved ones can be daunting. But we’ve also seen that it is doable.
Note the story of the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1-11). With great faith and boldness these five sisters – Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah – presented their petition to a governing body and made a righteous demand to receive the land promised to their family. By divine authority, they changed inheritance rights and set precedent for generations to come. This bold encounter unfolds as the new generation of Israelites prepare to enter into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness as a result of their rebellion against God. A second census has been taken and Moses is instructed on how to distribute land to families among the 12 tribes of Israel.
Women weren’t recognized as candidates for land inheritance, and Zelophehad didn’t have any sons to inherit his land. Unsatisfied with how their father would be remembered, his daughters wanted an explanation.
These sisters stood before Moses, a priest, local authorities and a whole congregation of people to question the validity of a statute that wouldn’t recognize their father who died in the wilderness of natural causes and not as punishment for gathering against the Lord with Korah.
Moses brought their case before the Lord and the Lord affirmed their petition to grant possession of the land promised to their family, setting a standard for how land should be distributed among families without immediate male heirs.
Imagine the audacity it took for these daughters to do what they did. To choose to take a stand, challenge authority and to demand a response to an injustice? Stunning.
To vocalize their concerns publicly with righteous indignation without having male privilege? Rare and rather scandalous.
Their societal status didn’t slow them down in their pursuit to defend their father’s name. It was belief in righting a wrong that overshadowed the fear they may have felt or backlash they may have been prepared to endure.
Do You Know When to Stand?
In both instances these women work in the pursuit of justice in expectation of an equitable future. As a result, whether intentional or not, they moved the needle on who gets to be heard and who gets the benefit of being understood. They also raise the question that may be worth asking when it’s time to take a stand: How do we decide what’s worth fighting righteously for?
Whether it’s working to change policy or fighting for what’s right in hopes of what’s to come in the future, history tells us that monumental victories call for a great amount of faith, hope and a bit of boldness.