Serena Williams is a boss on and off the tennis court – a veritable athletic powerhouse and an investor in companies boasting a combined market cap of $14 billion. But beyond success, tennis has taught Williams the virtues of fully committing to a craft.
“It taught me the power of discipline,” Williams told Insider. “It also taught me dedication.”
But as more young women drop out of sports at an unprecedented pace, many young women athletes may not get the same life lessons and opportunities.
Research by the Women’s Sports Foundation and research by the nonprofit Canadian Women & Sport found that young women drop out of sports at about twice the rate of young men. A big part of the problem is the lack of airtime and media coverage around women’s and girls’ sports.
To draw attention to the issue, Williams is partnering with the deodorant company Secret in an Olympics commercial that airs on Tuesday. The commercial, “Just Watch Me,” urges viewers to follow and watch more girls’ and women’s athletics. As part of the campaign, Secret is pledging $150,000 to fund girls’ sports.
“I really love how Secret wants to support and empower all young girls and women athletes,” Williams said.
When asked about the key to her success, Williams said commitment and consistency.
“Discipline takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to work on it to cultivate it,” she said. “It’s like when you’re cultivating the land. It takes years. So the same applies when you are working at your field. It takes a lot of repetitiveness.”
Indeed, Williams has used that discipline to recover from severe career setbacks.
In 2018, she suffered a life-threatening pregnancy complication where nurses questioned her despite severe symptoms. It turned out that she had a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in her abdomen that could have traveled to her lungs. Later that year, she was labeled “emotional” in a 2018 US Open dispute with a referee. Just a few weeks ago, a leg injury forced her to withdraw from Wimbledon.
“Sports lead to strong leadership skills, team work and higher levels of confidence in young people. Being able to make an impact that will keep future generations of girls in sports is crucial as society continues to push towards equality for women,” said Kate DiCarlo, a senior director of communications at Procter & Gamble.
Maritza McClendon, the first Black woman to join a US Olympic swim team and a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, said she’s proud that Williams is speaking out about the high rate of girls dropping out of sports.
“I’ve always admired Serena, not only for the athlete she is, but also for her passion, her realness, and her toughness,” McClendon said. “I love that Serena embraces this opportunity, attacks it like no one else has, and pushes people to think and do differently.”
The famed swimmer said swimming changed her life by teaching her perseverance, a skill she’s used as a mom, life coach, and motivational speaker.
“We need girls to stay in sports because of how sports enrich our lives. For a young girl to drop out of sports, it’s a missed opportunity for greatness,” she said.
Williams spoke to the same point.
“We have to support them, encourage them,” Williams said. “We have to support our girls.”
Some are becoming new parents: This month, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and Jen Rubio, the CEO of luggage startup Away, announced the birth of their first child together. The couple got engaged in May 2019, but postponed a planned wedding in Peru after the pandemic hit.
Others, sadly, have broken up: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, now MacKenzie Scott, announced in early 2019 that they were getting a divorce. And one of the most famous power couples in the world, Bill and Melinda Gates, are now headed for divorce as well.
Still, there are 14 other notable couples that hail from Silicon Valley who are still going strong.
A post shared by Emily Weiss (@emilyweiss) on Mar 18, 2020 at 10:25pm PDT
Who they are: Weiss is the cofounder and CEO of online makeup company Glossier. Gaybrick is the chief product officer at payments platform Stripe. Glossier is valued at more than $1 billion, while Stripe is the most valuable US startup with a valuation of $95 billion.
Their backstory: Not a whole lot about their relationship has been shared publicly. The couple made their relationship public in an Instagram post from New Years Day of 2019, then announced their engagement in a post in March 2020.
“Even during the wildest most uncertain times, there are silver linings,” Weiss wrote in the caption for the Instagram photo. Their engagement came just as the World Health Organization classified the coronavirus as a “pandemic.”
Evan Spiegel and Miranda Kerr
Who they are: Spiegel is the cofounder and CEO of Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company. Kerr was, at one time, one of the highest-earning models in the world, and is currently the founder of wellness company KORA Organics.
Their backstory: The couple has been linked since 2015, when they were seen together at the star-studded wedding for a dating app CEO in Jamaica. The couple reportedly have a baby girl together who was born in late 2018, although they’ve kept information about their child under wraps. Brin has two other children from his previous marriage to 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki.
It was revealed in October 2019 that Brin and Shanahan have been married since 2018, but there were no other details made public about the wedding.
Karlie Kloss and Joshua Kushner
Who they are: Kushner is the founder of venture capital firm Thrive Capital and is the cofounder of health insurance startup Oscar Health. Kloss is a prominent model who runs coding camps for young girls called Kode with Klossy.
Who they are: Zuckerberg is the CEO and cofounder of Facebook. Chan is a former pediatrician. Together, the couple launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropy focused on science and education.
Who they are: Ohanian is the cofounder of Reddit, and later cofounded the VC firm Initialized Capital. Williams is one of the best tennis players in the world, and ranks third on the all-time list of most winning players with 39 major tournament titles. In 2014, Williams launched her own investment firm, Serena Ventures, to invest in companies like Billie, Tonal, and Daily Harvest.
Their backstory: The couplemet in May 2015 in Rome, and started dating that same year. They got engaged at the end of 2016 at the same place in Rome where they had first met. Williams gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, in 2017, and they got married later that year.
Their backstory: The couple met through a mutual friend in 2007, and got married two years later. Mayer announced her first pregnancy in 2012 on the same day she was publicly named Yahoo’s CEO. She gave birth to identical twin girls in 2015.
Marc Benioff and Lynne Benioff
Who they are: Marc Benioff is the founder and CEO of enterprise cloud company Salesforce. Lynne Benioff is a notable philanthropist who serves on the board of the nonprofit ONE, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, the Benioff Ocean Initiative, and others.
Who they are: David Morin helped to create Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect, and cofounded Path, a now-defunct photo-based platform. He’s currently an investor with VC firm Offline Ventures. Brit Morin is the founder of Brit + Co., a popular lifestyle media company for millennial women.
Their backstory: The pair first met when they both were working at Apple years ago. They got engaged in 2011 after an elaborate proposal set in the Maldives, and got married the following year.
Kevin Hartz and Julia Hartz
Who they are: Kevin Hartz and Julia Hartz cofounded the ticketing company Eventbrite in 2006. He is currently a chairman at the company, while she serves as CEO.
Who they are: Greene and Rosenblum both helped found the cloud computing software company VMware in 1998. They also cofounded the cloud startup Bebop, which Google acquired in 2015. Greene was put in charge of Google’s cloud computing unit, and later sat on Alphabet’s board of directors. Greene is now chairman of the MIT Corporation, which is Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s board of trustees.
Their backstory: The couple met while attending the University of California, Berkeley, when Rosenblum gave Greene a ride on his motorcycle. They have two children together.
For a while, Dr. Jeremy Faust struggled to put into words why he was not worried about COVID-19 variants rendering vaccines obsolete.
Faust, an emergency-medicine physician and instructor at Harvard Medical School, was loath to use data to explain his reasoning to nonscientists. Instead, he had a hunch that sports analogies might help people understand him a little better.
Recently, he came up with one comparison that seemed to resonate: Think of our COVID-19 vaccines as world-class athletes.
Even if Serena Williams or Tom Brady is not performing at their absolute best, even if they face a change in the game, and even if they face a strong opponent, they are still extraordinarily hard to beat.
Yes, viral variants are on the rise – some of which can evade virus-neutralizing antibodies. But make no mistake: These vaccines, like elite athletes, can still perform very well against them.
“If Serena Williams all of a sudden was 10% less effective than usual, or 50% less effective than usual, she would still kick everyone’s ass,” Faust, who is also the editor of Brief19, a daily review of COVID-19 research, recently told Insider on Clubhouse.
“So far, the variants have not rendered any of the vaccines useless,” Faust said, adding that like Williams or Brady, “they’re still quite impressive,” even when slightly less effective.
Fauci agrees: Vaccines are tough to beat, even for variants
COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies prepare for the possibility of a future coronavirus invasion by teaching them how to fend off an attack from the original “wild-type” coronavirus.
Concerns that these shots could then be less effective against variants come from lab studies involving blood samples from vaccinated people, which showed that vaccinated people produced far fewer antibodies that could neutralize variants compared with the antibodies produced to combat the wild-type virus.
“Most people have high enough levels of antibody that even if you diminish it by several fold, we still have enough cushion effect to be able to block any issue of severe disease,” Fauci told Insider.
Like elite athletes, it would take a lot to overcome our highly effective COVID-19 vaccines
Scientists still don’t know precisely the amount of antibodies needed to keep us safe from a severe COVID-19 infection (just like we don’t know at what point a fatigued Brady or an injured Williams would cease to be some of the greatest athletes of all time).
But, like elite athletes, existing COVID-19 vaccines prompt such a high level of response to start with that even a little kick in the knees from some variants won’t completely stymie their efficacy, according to Alessandro Sette, an infectious-disease expert at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California.
“If you need a 10-foot wall to keep the virus out, and you start with a wall 100 feet high, even if the wall is reduced to 50 feet or 20 feet, it doesn’t really matter,” he told Insider.
Fauci has also said antibodies that are effective at combating the original virus can still partially work against variants – this is known as “the spillover effect.”
“It’s like you have a bug spray that is supposed to kill mosquitoes but might kill flies too, though maybe not as well,” Sette said.
Besides, that stark drop observed in neutralizing antibodies doesn’t happen against every variant. The variant first found in the UK, which is the one that is dominant in the US now, is “handled extremely well by the vaccines that are currently in use,” Fauci said.
Our T cells respond equally well to variants as they do to the original virus
Concerns over plummeting antibody levels also don’t take into account other parts of our immune response to the virus – namely killer T cells that identify and kill infected cells, as well as helper T cells that help B cells make new antibodies.
While antibodies stop infection, your body’s T cell response – which lasts at least six to eight months – can influence how severe that infection will be.
And there’s good news on the T-cell front: Two new studies found people who’ve recovered from the wild-type version of the coronavirus had T cells that could recognize worrisome variants.
Sette compares this phenomenon to people’s facial-recognition skills.
“Maybe I learn to recognize your face, then I meet your sister,” he said. “It kind of looks like you, so I say, ‘OK, that’s probably someone related.'”
One study – led by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci directs – looked at blood samples from 30 people who’d gotten infected with the coronavirus before the emergence of the variants. It found that the patients’ T cells did indeed respond to the variants first identified in South Africa, Brazil, and the UK well enough to give protection.
Sette’s team reached the same conclusion. Its recent research found that after people recovered from the original virus, their T cells could respond to those three variants, as well as one first identified in Southern California.
The La Jolla researchers also looked at blood samples from people who’d gotten Pfizer’s or Moderna’s shots and found that their T cells responded just as well to the variants first found in the UK, Brazil, and Southern California as they did to the original virus.
In the case of the variant first found in South Africa, T-cell responses decreased by up to 33% but were still detectable. That indicates vaccines most likely prevent deaths and hospitalizations for cases involving variants, even if they’re not quite as effective against stopping infections by those strains.
The likeliest explanation for why the same set of T cells can recognize different variants, according to Fauci, is a phenomenon called cross-reactivity: Helper and killer T cells developed in response to a given virus are capable of reacting to a similar but previously unknown variant.
Top athletes can perform well even when the game changes. These COVID-19 vaccines are the same.
Great athletes can still perform relatively well when the game changes.
LeBron James was training for the NFL during the NBA’s 2011 lockout. Michael Jordan played baseball after initially retiring from the NBA in 1993 (albeit, not nearly as well), and he’s got a decent golf game, too.
The only problem when it comes to the performance of our vaccines is: We just don’t quite know where their limits might lie.
“I worry more about the next variant than the current ones,” Faust said.
There may someday be some variant that will pack a wallop to our authorized vaccines, which would make booster shots essential.
But until then, the human body, when primed by a COVID-19 vaccine, seems a lot like an elite athlete: tough to compete against, even when some new, somewhat unfamiliar opponents (like viral variants) arrive on the scene.
Cathie Wood’s ARK Autonomous Technology & Robotics exchange-traded fund recently bought shares in a special-purpose acquisition company that counts tennis champion Serena Williams as a board member.
The ARKQ ETF snapped up 800,494 shares in Jaws Spitfire Acquisition Corp, according to data available on ARK Invest’s website. The fund counts Tesla, JD.com, Baidu, and Alphabet among its top ten holdings.
Miami-based Jaws is led by chairman Barry Sternlicht and CEO Matthew Walters. The SPAC recently entered a merger deal with digital manufacturing firm Velo3D to take it public, valuing the combined company at $1.6 billion.
Wood and the red-hot SPAC market have been caught up in a bit of a rough patch. Blank-check companies have already raised $96 billion across 296 IPOs so far in 2021, according to SPACInsider.com. Blank-check stocks tumbled on Thursday after Reuters reported the Securities and Exchange Commission has begun an inquiry into Wall Street’s SPAC frenzy and seeking voluntary information on dealings.
But 93% of SPACs that went public this week are trading below their $10 IPO price, Dealogic data compiled by Reuters showed. That is 14 out of 15 SPACs trading below par value.
Wood is known for her innovative investments in disruptive stocks. But her flagship $22.9 billion Innovation ETF is currently sitting on a 8% year-to-date loss after a broader pullback in high-growth stocks across multiple sectors. Meanwhile, the ARKQ ETF that bought into Jaws is up 4.6% year-to-date.