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Meghan Markle & Serena Williams Talk Ambition and Motherhood on New Podcast

“While Serena is soon closing her chapter on playing professional tennis, she’s not shutting the door on her ambition. She’s going to continue to do great things. To be the greatest of all time off the court. To be ambitious. And I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Updated August 25, 2022
Meghan Markle and Serena Williams
Image: Pool/Samir Hussein/Getty Images, Rachel Luna/Stringer/Getty Images

Meghan Markle may have withdrawn from the monarchy, but the Duchess of Sussex is back in the spotlight and making waves with a Spotify podcast called Archetypes The new show shines a light on “the labels and tropes that try to hold women back and how we can get past them.”

In the first episode, released on August 24, Markle talks with her longtime bestie, powerhouse mom and tennis champion Serena Williams. Over the nearly hour-long conversation, the two tackle the misconceptions and difficulties of being an ambitious woman and a mom and how both factored into Williams’ tough decision to “evolve away from tennis” recently.

Markle and Williams begin the podcast by discussing times they’ve felt the pressure around being an ambitious woman. How when Markle first married into the royal family, her ambition had her deemed “a climber” and “power hungry” in the press when ambitious men were just seen as leaders. And how Williams’ intense play and response to calls were often described as her “having a meltdown” or “being too emotional” when her male opponents were described as “passionate.”

With the cards seemingly already stacked against women when it comes to the label of being ambitious, things get even more tricky when it comes to being an ambitious mother. As Markle and Williams turn to talk about the tennis star’s step away from the game, they consult Dr. Laura Kray, an expert in gender in the workplace.

“Ambitious women that have children and then come back to work and attempt to perform at the highest level are violating people’s expectations of what the most important thing for women to be is to be nurturing and to love children. Anything that a woman does that could potentially call that into doubt is going to incur backlash.” Kray explains, adding, “When men have children, and they take time off and come back, they often experience a boost in their pay. People will say, ‘He’s got kids now. We need to help him support his family,’ and it benefits them career-wise when they have kids.”

The double standard is real.

Williams also recounts how she’s often asked, “How do you do the mom-work balance?” while her husband is never asked the same question. “This is hundreds of years of our minds being conditioned to thinking one way. You know I am a devil’s advocate, but moms do more. I know that now there are dads that do a lot. But traditionally, moms do more.” Williams says.

“And that’s why they always ask, how do you balance this, mom? How are you going to be able to play tennis and still have kids? Because quite frankly, we care, and we are there, and we are breastfeeding, and we are rocking that baby to sleep.”

After years of successfully striking this balance between her professional ambitions and being a mom, Williams opened up about just how scary and difficult her choice to retire and focus on her family was.

“I have been fortunate enough to play tennis really well, but I think my best is being a mom. Tennis was chosen for me, and I loved that choice, and I couldn’t have made a better choice, and I was really happy that it happened, but now, for the first time in my life, I am choosing to do something, and it’s hard because it’s something I have never done. I am making a different choice to stop doing what I love and hopefully have more kids.” Williams says.

Though the all-time great will be exiting the arena, Markle closes out the podcast by reiterating that Williams will continue to take her on-the-court ambition with her off-court. “Sometimes ambition in women seems to suggest you aren’t afraid of anything. But, of course, fear still exists. Maybe that’s the point, that the perception and the reality just are never really the same thing.” Markle says.

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“And while Serena is soon closing her chapter on playing professional tennis, she’s not shutting the door on her ambition. She’s going to continue to do great things. To be the greatest of all time off the court. To be ambitious. And I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

Check out Markle and William’s episode and learn more about other episodes of Archetypes featuring stars like Mariah Carey, which will be released in the upcoming weeks.

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