the wnba is setting a new standard for women in the workplace

and making sure queer women are included

the wnba is setting a new standard for women in the workplace

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In case you hadn’t heard, the WNBA announced their new collective bargaining agreement this week. It was major news, which broke on Good Morning America (!!!) and was even covered on The View.

We haven’t seen the full CBA yet, but what we have seen is very good. Here is a breakdown of what’s new:

Additional cash compensation elements:

  • Minimum of $1.6 million in off-season league and team marketing agreements, that both recognize top performance and highlight the diversity of the league, and would create up to $300,000 in additional annual cash compensation for select players.
  • Minimum of $750,000 in prize money for special competitions beginning with the 2021 season.
  • New 50-50 revenue sharing beginning with the 2021 season, based on the league achieving revenue growth targets from broadcast agreements, marketing partnerships and licensing deals.
  • Increases in cash bonuses for performance awards (such as for WNBA MVP and Rookie of the Year), and newly created cash bonuses (such as for each player named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team).

Quality of travel elements:

  • Premium Economy class status (such as Comfort/Economy Plus) for all players for regular-season air travel.
  • Individual hotel room accommodations for every player.
  • A collaborative effort to address travel concerns through the Player Advisory Panel.

Motherhood and family planning elements:

  • Players to receive full salary while on maternity leave.
  • A new annual childcare stipend of $5,000.
  • Two-bedroom apartments for players with children.
  • Workplace accommodations that provide a comfortable, safe and private place for nursing mothers.
  • New, progressive family planning benefits of up to a $60,000 reimbursement for veteran players for costs directly related to adoption, surrogacy, oocyte cryopreservation or fertility/infertility treatment.

Free agency elements

  • Unrestricted free agency available to players one year earlier than under the prior agreement beginning with the free agency period leading up to the 2021 season. Specifically, players who complete the playing services called for in their contract and have five or more years of service will become unrestricted free agents (if they are not designated as a “Core” player).
  • Reduction in the number of times a player can receive the “Core” designation – from four to three beginning with the 2020 season, dropping to two beginning with the 2022 season.

Career development and other quality of life elements:

  • The WNBA will work with its affiliated leagues, teams and sponsors to provide off-season job opportunities designed to prepare players for their post-playing careers and will advance diversity in coaching initiatives for veteran players interested in coaching careers.
  • Enhanced mental health benefits and resources.
  • An augmented and holistic domestic/intimate partner violence program that includes education and counseling.
  • A joint Nutrition Council committed to identifying resources and address proper nutrition to optimize athletic performance.
  • Access to experts in women’s health and representation on league policy committees.

There are a lot of reasons to be thrilled about this new CBA, many of which have been outlined by other writers (you can read Matt Ellentuck breaking down the basics at SB Nation; Lindsay Gibbs sharing her enthusiasm at Power Plays; or Tamryn Spruill breaking down the importance of Black women getting this deal done for Zora Mag).

When InStyle asked me to write a piece on the CBA, though, I knew I wasn’t going to be focusing on the pay increases; I wanted to talk about the family planning benefits. Because with this CBA, players in the W now have better maternity and family planning benefits than most women in the U.S.

(Mom: click here to read the piece.)

In the U.S., there is no guaranteed paid maternity leave. We don’t have universal childcare. Fertility treatments or egg freezing being covered by insurance? Nearly unheard of. So to see the league step up in such a major way for its players was one of the most groundbreaking elements of the deal.

It was also important to me not to erase the identity of the women who would be benefitting from these, well, benefits: whether it’s the fact that 88% of the league is women of color and Black women historically have the hardest time receiving the postpartum support they need, or the fact that many of the women in the league are queer, which undoubtedly affects the way they go about planning for a family.

Many people use methods aside from penis-in-vagina sex to conceive babies or build a family, for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s infertility, a desire to adopt instead of birth a child, being a solo parent who wants to start a family, or some other reason, plenty of straight people utilize a variety of reproductive resources when planning their family. But for queer people, often the only way for them to have kids of their own is through adoption or fertility treatments. I didn’t want that to go unsaid, which is why I spent two days hounding the league and teams and various social media accounts until I was able to get in touch with Layshia Clarendon, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association’s (WNBPA) First Vice President and outspoken advocate for LGBTQ issues, for comment on the matter.

I super, super appreciate my editor at InStyle, Laura Norkin, who was willing to wait until I got the quotes I wanted to publish the story. Despite a news cycle that lasts about a day and the risk of missing it by waiting too long to go live, it was too important to me to make sure this aspect was included in the piece. I hadn’t seen anyone else mention this angle, nor ask any of the players about it.

The devil will be in the details of this deal, of course, and we have yet to see the entire CBA. It’s unclear whether the maternity leave benefits extend equally to non-gestational parents. But no matter what, WNBA players had a major victory for labor organizing and successfully fought for better maternity benefits than almost any other woman in the country — and those benefits include the many queer women in their ranks.


I’m still in such shock and awe about our new CBA deal. The journey was grueling, exciting, fulfilling, exhausting, and so much more. It really means a lot to me that a league full of predominantly black women won a major labor deal. The history of exploitation runs deep for women and particularly for black women. I feel so much hope and even healing in the restoration of our dignity. We’ve known for a while that when you bet on women everyone wins. I’m so glad the world is finally starting to catch up. 😭🙌🏽 #NewDealWhoDisJanuary 17, 2020Subscribe now