“We need to have women in more powerful positions that are making decisions, so when that 10-year-old girl is looking up and wondering, ‘What can I do and what do I want to be when I get older?’ She has the opportunity to do and be whatever she wants.”
During her time spent on the US women’s national soccer team, which she played on from 2001 to 2015, Abby Wambach earned the record for most international goals scored by any soccer player — male or female. A true team player, Wambach is known for her unselfish pursuit of success for her team, female athletes, and women everywhere. She has been outspoken about the gender pay gap and treatment of female soccer players, organizing protests and facilitating discussion in the interest of gender equality.
Wambach is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and is a FIFA Women’s World Cup champion. She grew up in Rochester, New York and fell in love with soccer at an early age. As the youngest of seven kids, Wambach found herself in both a competitive and team-oriented environment, often playing sports with her siblings. In high school she honed her signature goal-scoring method, the diving header, regularly staying after practice to develop her technique. She played college soccer at Florida and helped her team win its first NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship in 1998.
After a successful college career, Wambach went on to play at the professional level for Washington Freedom, magicJack, and the Western New York Flash. However, she is perhaps best known for her international play, competing in the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, bringing home gold both times. In 2004, her header in extra time against Brazil gave the U.S. team a 2-1 victory and the gold medal. Wambach also played in four FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments, finally winning in 2015, the last one she played in before retiring later that year. She is regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the game and has been recognized for her courage, determination, and leadership.
For Wambach, retirement from the game is a welcome transition rather than an end, one which she has embraced as an opportunity to broaden her horizons. As Wambach has said, “I don’t want the rest of my life to be based on the fact that I played soccer. I want to be able to venture and learn about different things.” Since retiring, she has joined ESPN as an analyst and a contributor. She also produces a podcast called “Fearless Conversation with Abby Wambach.”
In 2016, she published her New York Times best-selling book “Forward: A Memoir,” an inspirational examination of her personal struggles with gender, LGBT issues, alcohol, and prescription drugs. Wambach says the memoir was “the most brutal and beautiful experience I’ve ever undertaken, professionally, because it’s so personal.” In using her own experiences as a springboard for discussing social issues, Wambach brings people together by focusing on common problems and the steps that need to be taken to address them.
During her career, she often advocated for more equal treatment of female athletes. In 2015, Wambach and others spoke out against FIFA’s decision to play the Women’s World Cup on artificial turf, which Wambach said was inferior to the grass used in the Men’s World Cup. Deciding to take a stand, Wambach and 60 other players filed a lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association, claiming gender discrimination. The lawsuit was eventually dropped, but Wambach remained vocal about gender equality, condemning the gender pay gap and stating firmly that “Enough is enough.”
Her continued engagement with women’s issues also led her to campaign for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Wambach often makes appearances, does Q&A’s, and speaks at universities and conferences. She has been a fierce advocate of women climbing to higher positions of leadership in business, politics, and sports. In June of 2017, Wambach reached out on social media to a young girl whose team had been disqualified from a soccer tournament because the opposing team said that she looked like a boy. Wambach told her “Thank you for teaching us how to be brave and shining a light on something so hurtful.”
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For further speakers on related topics like social justice and gender equality, check out the Keynote Speakers Lists on our website!