In 2023, the US Open celebrated the 50th anniversary of equal prize money for men and women players at the tournament—a historic first for tennis’ four Grand Slam events—while also recognizing the pioneering champion who helped make that happen: Billie Jean King.
As part of that celebration, USOpen.org featured an essay series in which a variety of women in sports and in other fields shared their own personal stories of success and detailed the barriers they’d overcome to achieve that success. The series, which began with an essay from King, included 30 individual essays from a diverse range of authors, each noting the inspiration of King in their respective career efforts while offering their own words of advice and encouragement for women seeking to follow in their footsteps.
By incorporating women from other sports, as well as women in the fields of entertainment, politics, news, and business, the USOpen.org team hoped to shed light on the impact King’s pioneering efforts at leveling the playing field has had on the success other women’s efforts to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling, while positioning the sport of tennis as an inspiring leader in empowering women to achieve.
The series was designed to give its contributing essayists a platform to tell their stories and facilitate a conversation on equality, while recognizing the work that others have done for equal pay and equal opportunities. In addition to sharing their experiences on and off the field, the essayists hoped to inspire audiences to persevere and fight for their own goals, and remind readers how far we have come—and how far we have to go—in the pursuit of equality.
The goal at the onset of the series was to get 10-12 notable women to contribute essays. In the end, 30 women contributed, each eager to share their personal stories of success and detail the inspiration of King’s pioneering efforts in that success. That level of eagerness to contribute was testimony not only to King’s impact on both sports and society, but also spoke to the many ways in which the sport of tennis has been at the forefront of impacting change. It was a unique venture for the website, reaching outside the lines to include such a wide array of successful women in an effort to invigorate and inspire future generations to reach higher and dream bigger.
All of the individuals featured in the series had their own journeys, but were inspired by Billie Jean King and others to fight for equality and open doors for the next generation.
The essayists were also chosen for their diversity in experiences, ensuring that many different identities were represented to provide a range of viewpoints across race, age, ability, sports and industries, exposing readers to stories that speak to their own experiences while opening their eyes to the experiences of others.
Additionally, the publishing schedule from May through the US Open’s final week of competition in September was implemented to build momentum and excitement among readers and fans, and to keep the Open’s theme of equality at the forefront throughout the summer. The personal voices in each helped to make the essays more accessible and engaging reads, while educating readers on the impact of tennis and King in inspiring generations of successful women.
The "Champions of Equality" essay series proved to be one of USOpen.org’s most popular features throughout the summer, helping to put faces on and connect genuine success stories to the US Open’s overriding theme of leveling the playing field for all.
The tournament’s home page had the series’ landing page prominently displayed throughout the spring and summer through the tournament, so all visitors would be exposed to the essays and the importance of gender equality.
Most readers found the stories through organic search, but the US Open social media accounts also shared these essays, reaching new audiences.
The series received more than 88,000 page views across all 30 essays and the landing page via 64,000 unique devices. People kept coming back to the stories once they found it, wanting to read what other prominent women had to say. Gayle King’s piece received the most traffic, and her popularity and ability to reach people from all walks of life made it possible for audiences to discover the series and the US Open’s celebration of equality in the process. The different voices made tennis accessible to all in the hopes of increasing engagement with the sports industry at large.
By drawing a wide audience that returned to read more essays and having so many women contribute their stories, we were thrilled by the results and the series’ ability to show how tennis has had a positive impact while shining a spotlight on the achievements of other incredible women.