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The sponsor that supported this expecting LPGA star  1 Week ago

Source:   USA Today  

For professional golfer Stacy Lewis, being a sponsored athlete comes with an additional set of challenges. "For a lot of women in this sport, you have to be willing to give up all your income for essentially a year to have a child," Lewis explained. "It's really kind of ridiculous when you think about it. Male professional athletes can take a week or two off and they're right back at it. It's just a different deal for us, it's a lot harder."

The majority of sponsorship contracts are based on the number of tournaments an athlete competes in, with no clause or language that indicates what would happen in the event the player becomes pregnant within the contract's duration. 

Competing in a professional sport is pressure enough. But for Lewis, knowing that she wanted to start a family meant having to prepare ahead of time, and play as frequently as possible while she still could. "You put a lot of pressure on yourself, because it becomes, 'I just have to be able to make as much money as I can right now to support when I have these months where I'm not going to be able to make anything," she said.

What Lewis wasn't prepared for was a call from KPMG, one of her sponsors, saying they planned on fulfilling her contract regardless of how many tournaments she played.

"It's pretty unheard of, what KPMG did for me. It was unexpected by me, and just unexpected across the board," said Lewis.

But for Lynne Doughtie, U.S. Chairman and CEO of KPMG, it was a no-brainer. "We've had a long relationship with Stacy, and Stacy and her family are part of the KPMG family. We wanted Stacy to have the same benefits that a KPMG employee would have, and there was really no big discussion about it. It was more like, 'Of course we're doing it.' We feel so fortunate to have Stacy as part of KPMG, and to share in this big life moment for her. It's nice to be able to be a part of it," said Doughtie. 

In 2012, Lewis became the first female athlete sponsored by KPMG, igniting the company's many efforts to empower women through golf and its leadership initiatives. "The whole purpose of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship has been trying to elevate the experience for the LPGA Tour players, like ensuring they play on the best courses and receive national exposure via network TV coverage, which the men have for their championships," said Doughtie. 

KPMG's continued sponsorship of Lewis marks the next step in striving toward that goal. "We're now at this point where we're talking about the aspect of having children, and how we can continue to elevate the game and the awareness. It's been a journey, and Stacy has been a part of that from the very beginning and how we've planned this whole championship from its inception," Doughtie reflected. 

Being that these benefits also have an obvious advantage for the business, it's surprising more companies haven't caught on. "You want to retain your very best talent. Half of our workforce is women, so it's important for us from a business perspective to ensure we keep that top talent within our firm, finding creative ways to make it work. We're continuing to explore ways that we can continue to support our employees as they're going through one of the most important times of their lives when it can be really hard and stressful and challenging – and you want to take that stress away," Doughtie said.

It's a stress relief that Lewis will experience firsthand when she takes leave from the game starting mid-July. "It really freed things up for me to be able to enjoy this year and this time more," said Lewis.

As for the future of sponsorships for female athletes? Lewis hopes KPMG's example will tee up a change in how these contracts are negotiated. "Just calling my other sponsors and telling them what KPMG had done, their responses were, 'We never thought of that.' I wanted to raise some awareness and hopefully change the way things are done down the road," Lewis said. 

 

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