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Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is…

Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is Helping To Change Our World

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. There was a time — 2015, actually — when I almost had to retire from pro cycling simply because the pay gap was so horribly imbalanced I had to work two other jobs just to stay afloat. Had I been a man, that wouldn’t have been the case. (All the men on World Tour teams had a base wage. The women at the same level did not.) We survived on peanuts. I used to think, “What if there were a place where women could live and train for free, while we fix the broken parts of the system?” That’s when the idea for Homestretch was born. We’ve been around 5 years, and we’ve helped 70 athletes from 17 different nations. And in 2020, our fight for a women’s base salary in professional cycling was finally granted.

As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Bertine, an author, athlete, activist and CEO of Homestretch Foundation. On the bike, Bertine had a five-year career in professional cycling, three-year pro career in triathlon, and a year-long career as a pro figure skater. Off the playing fields, she was a columnist for ESPN, senior editor for ESPNW and author of four nonfiction books, All the Sundays Yet to Come (Little, Brown), As Good As Gold (ESPN/RandomHouse), and The Road Less Taken (Triumph Books) and her new book, STAND (New Shelf Press), which arrives February 2021.

Her award-winning documentary, HALF THE ROAD: The passion, pitfalls and power of women’s professional cycling gives a glimpse into the trials women face in this sport. In 2017, she founded and currently serves as CEO for Homestretch Foundation, a 501c3 which provides free housing to female professional athletes struggling with the gender pay gap.

A native of Bronxville, NY she lives in Tucson, AZ. She holds a BA from Colgate University and an MFA from the University of Arizona.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to your career path in professional sports and activism?

As a kid, I played all sorts of wonderful sports: softball, running, skiing, skating. In college I was a competitive Division 1 rower, and a figure skater. After my pro skating career, I became a pro triathlete, which segued into a five-year career as a professional road cyclist. Because all the other sports before cycling provided an equal opportunity for women, I was shocked how many road blocks there were in the world of professional cycling. That’s what sparked my initiative to change the sport for equal inclusion.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

As an athlete, the answer is simple: work your ass off and rise through the ranks. As an activist, the road to equal opportunity is a bumpy journey, so my best advice is to form a team, a thick skin and a strong sense of humor. I write more about this topic in my new book, STAND.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

At 45, I’m now able to understand that people affect us in a plethora of ways. I have amazing role models I look up to, and they’re responsible for motivating me with joy. There have also been people who stood in my way, trying to block my path. In the beginning, these were obstacles. Now I see the opposition as inspiration. The people who make us question our path are the ones who help us keep our eyes on what really matters. They’re not a challenge, they’re a gift.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about what it is like being a professional sports player?

For women in pro sports, many of us struggle with the gender pay gap. It’s important to call out this inequity. Not every pro athlete is rollin’ in luxury. The quicker we can dispel that myth, the better and closer we are to fixing it.

Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I’m the CEO of Homestretch Foundation, a nonprofit which assists female pro athletes who struggle with the gender pay gap. Behind the scenes, we fight to eradicate this hurdle. Makes me feel pretty great to be part of the solution instead of the struggle.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. There was a time — 2015, actually — when I almost had to retire from pro cycling simply because the pay gap was so horribly imbalanced I had to work two other jobs just to stay afloat. Had I been a man, that wouldn’t have been the case. (All the men on World Tour teams had a base wage. The women at the same level did not.) We survived on peanuts. I used to think, “What if there were a place where women could live and train for free, while we fix the broken parts of the system?” That’s when the idea for Homestretch was born. We’ve been around 5 years, and we’ve helped 70 athletes from 17 different nations. And in 2020, our fight for a women’s base salary in professional cycling was finally granted.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

I’m honored to say we have many stories where we’ve affected the lives of our residents for the better. From helping them rise through the pro ranks, becoming Olympians, and even helping them transition to careers after their sport… it’s such an awesome thing to be part of someone’s life journey, to see how helping others helps society move forward.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“Together we all move forward.” So true. No one achieves anything great alone.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Is Madam VP part of your readership? Because I would love to shake Kamala Harris’s hand and discuss some of the work I’m doing with bills in the Senate on equal opportunity! I’m also a huge fan of Colin Kaepernick, for standing up for his beliefs. I’d also love to have lunch with Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron and Geena Davis not because they’re amazing actors but because they produce films on women and stories that matter. If I could get a copy STAND into their hands, I’d die happy. Ok, I’ll stop there. For now. The list goes longer…

How can our readers follow you online?

Yes! I’m on social media @kathrynbertine and I’ve got a website / mailing list where I enjoy keeping people posted about the latest project I’m working on. www.kathrynbertine.com

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.