Urban Mobility Index


Run with Courage

"There's something to be said about being fearful and still moving forward because it can help somebody else."

There's something to be said about being fearful and still moving forward because it can help somebody else.


Terry: Hi, my name is Terry Stone and I'm the Managing Partner of the Americas for Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm.

We're really excited for you to be with us as we launch our new series called Run With Purpose. I have here with me Allyson and Wes Felix, as well as my colleague, Mark Pellerin, who's going to talk a little bit about why we're here and what we're looking to do.

Mark: Something common has brought us all together and that's purpose. I hope we can talk a lot about impact, a lot about integrity, a lot about what's required at times to take risk and be bold to achieve just extraordinary outcomes.

As we get started today, I'd actually like to start with courage. Maybe you can take us behind the scenes in terms of moments in your career where you really had to dig deep to find that courage and find your voice.

Allyson: I never saw a woman who was celebrated in my sport who was still having a family and doing both. It wasn't that it wasn't happening, but those stories weren't being told. I had a lot of fear around starting a family and I wasn't sure if I was going to be supported through that. When it came down to it, I experienced that as well: I wasn't fully supported and that was really a difficult period for me.

So essentially, I was just asking for time to get back to that top level and I was met with the response that I could have the time, but that not every woman could. For me, that was something that was just unacceptable.

It took courage, really, to come forward and to share that story and to say that it's not okay. I really think it comes back, for me, having my own daughter during that time and thinking about this world that she's going to grow up in and really getting that final push that I needed to speak out.

Terry: Yeah, but not only that, I mean for those who are watching to know, you changed it for so many women. By you standing up for what you believed in and putting your foot down and saying, "I'm not going to do this," it changed basically the lives of lots of other people who now have protection, which is amazing.

Allyson: You know, you think you do something and maybe way down the line something is going to happen. I think that's where I was. I was terrified to come forward and I wasn't sure what was going to be the outcome. I just knew that I deeply believed.

I think there's something to being fearful and still moving forward and doing so because you think that it can help somebody else. It's not about you but someone else down the line and I was really grateful that things shifted really quickly, faster than I thought they would, after myself and other teammates of mine [Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher] came forward and wrote this op-ed. It was a couple weeks later that the policies were changed in that maternal protections. I think Nike now offers 18 months maternal protection.

Terry: That’s amazing. I mean in so many ways it's almost like a great indignity of some of what you had to suffer.

I'm curious, Wes, as Allyson's brother and as her agent and working with her as her manager, how did you experience this? What was your thought?

Wes: Yeah, it was heartbreaking. I think that especially as a man, she went through things that I'll never actually experience. Things that I'll never really feel on my own.

But by being so close with her and by us going through it together and working as her manager, it was me talking with the shoe company. It was me that the message was delivered to. It was really, really hard.

I think what was mind blowing to me was there were no women in the room. So there's us, there's five men sitting here talking about Allyson's future and what it's going to look like for her to have a child and just five guys talking about it.

It just felt so many times if there was just a female perspective just in the room, it didn't even have to be leading the group, but if it was just in the room, would the conversations have been the same? Would people have still felt as bold in the way that they said “Well, that’s the way it is.”

Terry: I would say, I remember being asked 15 years ago, "What would make a difference?" I'm like, get more women at the top because it changes the conversation. It changes the dialogue. It makes things different, and I think it creates an environment that's more inclusive.

People see role models and they go, "I can do that."

Wes Its just so important. The representation piece. There’s young women who want to see someone they can look up to, but also, as a guy you need the different perspective. You need someone that we can sit back and listen to and say: “Oh, interesting, I didn't think of it that way.”

Mark: But I think finding ways to recognize women but also recognize in ourselves, Wes, that we have unconscious biases and there are ways that we can never really know how it feels. And then for me, the third piece is just advocacy.

Wes: Yeah. That to me is not being an ally, sitting back and just saying, "I'll cheer you on from over here on the sideline." You have to actually get out there and be in the middle of it.

Terry: Switching gears a little bit, but sticking with the theme of courage, Allyson, you had a very scary experience when you were pregnant and giving birth to your daughter. You've actually showed a lot of courage in trying to stand up and raised more awareness of what's going on. Would you share with us a little bit of your story there?

Allyson: Yeah. Almost during the same time that I was in this fight for maternal protections, I was also pregnant and I had a great pregnancy until 32 weeks. I just went to the doctor for a routine appointment and that's when things really changed. I found out that I had a very severe case of preeclampsia. We spent about a month in the NICU [neo-natal intensive care unit] with my daughter and it was a very difficult and trying time.

But that entire experience just opened my eyes to this crisis that we're facing in maternal health, that Black women, women of color, are almost four times as likely to experience complications or even death while giving birth than White women.

I think that maybe I had heard those statistics before, but until I was in it, and living it, it changed everything for me. It made me want to figure out what can I do about this. The statistics are so mind blowing and I think that's immediately where people naturally go, is that, well, your access to healthcare is not as high and all these things.

When I was going through this experience at the same time, I was watching Serena Williams going through something similar, and Beyoncé. These women who are very privileged and have access to everything they could ever need and they're still having these issues.

That's where things really shifted and I said, "No, there's something more to this and we have to do something about this problem because it's even growing to be more of a problem than getting better."

Wes: And it goes back to again, so then what do we do? How could we have better educated that room? People like Alyson sharing their story. And really getting it out publicly and being able to say, "Hey, you need to pay attention to this. Not to scare you, but you should ask questions."

Allyson: Yeah. Something that really sticks out in my mind, actually, something that Wes told me when I was going through this whole process was that you can use your voice even if it shakes.

And I really just held on to that because I was terrified to come forward and to speak and to share my story. But understanding that you can do that even in the face of fear, even if it doesn't come natural to you, is huge. And also understanding that some change can come from it, you know, so you sometimes have to put that one foot in front of the other and go with what you deeply believe in.

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