Founder Interview with Kathryn Bertine
“The mission of The Homestretch Foundation is to level the playing field of salary discrepancy in sport, so that female professional athletes have the same wages and equal opportunities as male professional athletes. Regardless of an athlete’s socioeconomic and/or life circumstances, we want all women to pursue their careers as athletes without compromise, inequality or injustice.”
Please tell us about the Homestretch Foundation. What inspired you to build it?
The Homestretch Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides temporary housing and other resources to professional or elite athletes—primarily female athletes—who face financial and economic discrepancies. In a nutshell, we assist low-income female professional athletes with free housing, bridge the wage gap of salary inequity for women in all occupations, provide resources, networking and opportunities for post-athletic careers, and we also allow donors/members to book our facility in the off-season.
What inspired me to build Homestretch Foundation was because these were the exact resources I needed when I was a professional bike racer. Modern society believes in a common misconception: Professional athletes are wealthy and/or financially stable. However, this is not the case. Especially for female professional athletes. In sports like cycling, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling’s governing body) allocates men a base salary of $35K euro. Yet, according to the UCI, professional women of the same rank as the men, “don’t deserve a base salary.” Because there is no base salary for women, many female professional cyclists earn less than $10,000 USD annually, and therefore must work additional jobs just to pay for basic life expenses. Salary inequity is not ok. The current system works to exclude people, particularly women from less-privileged backgrounds who are socioeconomically challenged. This leaves fewer opportunities for low-income women to sustain their professional careers in sports. At the Homestretch Foundation, we dismantle gender discrimination, assist in the struggle surrounding our current professional female athletes, and raise our sport, our society and our misconceptions to a better place: Equality.
What do you believe are the main causes for the enormous financial gap between professional male and female athletes when it comes to minimum base salary? ($40K for men and $10K for women)
The biggest cause of financial gap inequity can be traced directly to the the lack of media coverage. If media invested equally in covering women’s sports, the doorway to marketing would open. ROI would double. Without exposure, the women suffer immensely from sponsorship investment. In a sport like cycling, that’s where salaries come from.
What types of resources and support is the Homestretch Foundation providing to its members?
In addition to all the points answered in the first question, I’ve seen an incredibly beautiful element unfold amongst our residents: Emotional support. Community support. Growth of character. Being a professional athlete is physically and mentally demanding, and it can be a very difficult journey when one feels unsupported. There are so many intangible elements that come from women supporting other women. I’ve watched that unfold at Homestretch Foundation and it carries so far beyond the playing field.
Please share with us some of your case studies or success stories.
Too many to count! In four years, we’ve helped 66 athletes from 16 different countries. So far, that includes two Olympians, and we’re expecting that number to rise by Tokyo 2021. In addition to helping well-established pro cyclists, we’ve helped four high-ranking elite athletes sign their first pro contract. We’ve also helped two pro athletes transition into new careers after their retirement from sport. We love following their careers on the bike and off, and it gives me so much joy to know we helped play a part in their journey. One of my biggest joys is watching our residents embrace our weekly requirement of two hours of community service, and seeing them give back to the community that’s supporting them. It’s pretty awesome to watch our residents volunteer with kids’ programs, elderly assistance, health classes and even local trash collection. By the time they leave Homestretch, they’ve grown as human beings as well as professional athletes.
What is the vision of the Homestretch Foundation? How can our readers get involved?
The vision of the Homestretch Foundation is to someday be irrelevant. If the gender pay gap didn’t exist, neither would we, and we love working toward that outcome. Ultimately, we’d love to provide support at the grassroots level of women’s sports. But until women are viewed equally at the top, too, we’re not going away.. We would love to join forces with a company and/or individual to become our title partner by 2022. Since we’ve proven our model is successful, we’d like to pass the mission forward to a bigger platform of investment/exposure. Of course, we’re also thankful for all levels of involvement and support. We encourage people to get involved with Homestretch Foundation through financial support, media exposure and discussing/challenging the gender pay gap in local/national platforms. Our creed is “together we all move forward.”