By Jan Perry
Los Angeles, CA – Having witnessed the culmination of Serena Williams’ historic career, and being reminded of her continuing battles against sexist, racist, and (in her later years) ageist naysayers, I find myself newly energized and focused to continue my fight against restrictive, condescending stereotypes used to denigrate and impede women–particularly mature women–as they strive for success in their chosen pursuits.
As a twelve-year Los Angeles City Councilwoman, as the leader of the City’s Economic and Workforce Development initiatives, and as a candidate for the 37th Congressional seat for Los Angeles, I have and always will champion diversity and inclusion for my past and future constituents, regardless of gender, socio-economic status or ethnic background. I seek an atmosphere where inspiration and ability–not age–are the most important factors for success in all professions where qualified individuals still seek to work or compete.
To make that vision a reality, we must create environments where women are encouraged to succeed, and recognized for their abilities and experience, at all ages and phases of their lives. The success of the Williams sisters, founded upon athleticism, courage, and determination in the face of a regimented and resistant tennis establishment, garnered them innumerable championships, along with the respect and admiration of the entire sporting world and beyond. Equally remarkable is the longevity of their careers, as they have continued to compete through their teens, twenties, thirties and now (in Venus’ case) forties. Their careers played out on the world stage, earning them universal acclaim.
The athletic world aside, how do you measure up in terms of having fair and equal attitudes about a person’s age? Can you root for Serena Williams and her decades of championships, while doubting or disparaging other women who choose to continue to pursue their goals and uphold their core values into middle age and beyond?
I am inspired by Serena, Venus and the Williams family, just as I am empowered by my own legacy of public service. When I was a young girl in 1965, my father Samuel Perry was elected mayor of Woodmere, Ohio. My mother Bettie Perry succeeded him. My parents led by example and believed in a future where I could become a leader and game changer based upon my abilities and personal qualities alone, unencumbered by unfair and restrictive prejudices. I upheld their beliefs from the time I worked my first job in public service to the present time.
Notably, my focus is not limited to women. No human being of any race or gender should be judged, denied opportunities or passed over for advancement based solely upon age. Do not be defined or denied your rightful place due to your age; rather, demand to be held accountable based upon your abilities. Talent and life experience are to be appreciated, not discounted, as time goes on.
At this critical time, so many of our civic and democratic ideals are under attack and at great risk. How we respond to this ever-mounting crisis will define our society for generations. This is our time of reckoning and our chance to get it right. The only way to be relevant is to listen to what people say, understand what they need and make an all-out effort to allow them to fulfill their dreams. With over 30 years working in legislative and policy development and community empowerment, I can truly say that women don’t expire, we evolve! I join President Joe Biden, Tiger Woods, Oprah, Billie Jean King, Lewis Hamilton, Beyonce, LeBron James and all the rest in saying thank you Serena Williams for a glorious grand slam career and for leading change on and off the court.
Jan Perry is a Candidate for 37th Congressional District in Los Angeles, CA