Serena Williams has made it clear that, outside of continuing to add to her 23-and-counting Grand Slam wins, she has no plans to slow down her fight off the court for women’s equality, either. And her next initiative in this arena is one she is particularly close to — protecting the lives of Black mothers.
This week, it was announced that Williams, through her firm Serena Ventures, has signed on as an investor in Mahmee, a startup that’s dedicated to addressing the high maternal mortality rates of Women of Color in the U.S. Given that Williams herself faced nearly fatal complications following the birth of her daughter Olympia in 2017, her dedication to shielding other women from doctors’ negligence makes perfect sense.
A cover story on Williams published in Vogue last year described how the tennis star didn’t receive the assistance she’d quite been expecting after complaining of shortness of breath following her delivery.
"She walked out of the hospital room so her mother wouldn’t worry and told the nearest nurse, between gasps, that she needed a CT scan with contrast and IV heparin (a blood thinner) right away. The nurse thought her pain medicine might be making her confused. But Serena insisted, and soon enough a doctor was performing an ultrasound of her legs. 'I was like, a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip,' she remembers telling the team. The ultrasound revealed nothing, so they sent her for the CT, and sure enough, several small blood clots had settled in her lungs. Minutes later she was on the drip. 'I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!'
Unfortunately, too many Women of Color are met with similar skepticism from the medical establishment — and when doctors exhibit an unwillingness to listen to women’s lived experiences of their own bodies, the results can be dire. That’s one reason why Black women in this country are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Through her investment in Mahmee, Williams is pushing for an end to this reality. The Black woman-founded company allows mothers to track the health of themselves and their child after giving birth, offers access to resources like lactation consultants, and creates an open space for asking and answering questions. Additionally, Mahmee partners with Medicaid-accepting health systems and hospitals to help make its services accessible to new moms across income levels.
In announcing her involvement, Williams spoke to the impact she hopes the organization will make.
“I am incredibly excited to invest and partner with Mahmee, a company that personifies my firm’s investment philosophy,” Williams said in a statement. “Given the bleak data surrounding maternal death and injury rates, I believe that it is absolutely critical right now to invest in solutions that help protect the lives of moms and babies."
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