When &Mother was founded last May, it was starting from scratch. Co-founded by Alysia Montaño, the organization had a few partners and virtually nothing in donations, but a super clear vision: empower female athletes to achieve success in both their careers and in motherhood, through direct financial support and by changing the narrative around maternity in sport.
Now, the 501c3 nonprofit has officially partnered with maternity brand Cadenshae, is actively supporting three elite athletes, has a virtual 5k fundraiser planned with footwear company Altra—and as of Monday, has added the acclaimed six-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix to its board of directors.
“You do not have to finish your career before becoming a mother, your best performances are not behind you once you become a mother,” says Felix.
Felix, in a viral op-ed for the New York Times, joined a chorus of voices saying “me too” when Montaño broke the silence about the widespread lack of support for mothers in professional sports in 2019. Felix, the most decorated athlete in track and field history, was unable to secure maternity protections from Nike, her sponsor at the time.
One of the main goals of &Mother is to eliminate exactly that situation, what Montaño calls the “motherhood penalty”—when otherwise successful athletes lose sponsors simply due to becoming a mother. The motherhood penalty extends beyond sport, of course, particularly in the U.S., where maternity leave isn’t guaranteed and many women face consequences large and small for starting a family.
When Montaño broke the silence about the widespread lack of support for mothers in professional sports, women in many professions—lawyers, pilots, architects—who had similar experiences reached out to thank her for bringing the issues to light.
“You don’t always know what to ask for or what you’ll need until you’ve been through it,” explains Felix. “The burden should not be on young athletes or new mothers or those at risk of losing a contract. That’s where &Mother comes in.”
The company offers financial aid directly to athletes, and fully supports the women to use the funds how they need to when it comes to covering family support needs (like childcare while training or competing). Those sorts of barriers come up all too often when women look at balancing their career with motherhood, says co-founder Molly Dickens. Beyond &Mother’s currently sponsored athletes, the company aims to help additional women in these ways, too.
“Bringing on Allyson Felix adds fuel to the fire,” says Dickens. “Her story following Alysia’s was such a powerful addition to the Dream Maternity movement, and as we transition that movement into impact, it is a natural progression to keep Allyson’s voice and insight.”
Joining &Mother is a natural fit for Felix, who has integrated female support—and more specifically, maternal support—into her career. She is now sponsored by Athleta in what is more of a partnership than a traditional athlete-brand deal, where she designs collections and has a hands-on role.
“One thing that has been extremely clear to me during and post-childbirth is that you can be strong and transform in a lot of different ways,” said Felix. “That’s something that I want my daughter to grow up with, and I want all young women to understand.”