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Breast-Feeding Jockey Breaks Another Barrier

image via entertainmentrealm

Can we just agree that David Israel, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, should handle all charges of workplace discrimination brought by moms with new babies? Not only does he tear the (female!) steward of Betfair Hollywood Park racetrack in Los Angeles a new one for allegedly demeaning new mom and jockey Kayla Stra, but Israel makes a powerful statement overall about workplace discrimination of any kind.

Gently put, he says it's intolerable.

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We'll get to his much stronger statement in a second. But first, some background: After giving birth to her son, Kayla Stra, a 28-year-old Australian jockey who has been racing in California for the past two years, got right back on the horse and kept racing—baby and nanny in tow.

The discrimination dust-up happened, according to U-T San Diego, after Stra said stewards at the Hollywood Park racetrack had banned her from nursing her son in the women's jockey room. She told a local radio station that Kim Sawyer, the only female steward, told Stra's agent that the new mom jockey needed to choose between being a jockey and being a mother.

Scott Chaney, another steward at the park, said it was all a misunderstanding. Their only complaint was that a woman not scheduled to race was in the women's jockey area. And that woman, presumably Stra's nanny, was changing the baby's diaper.

"In order for a new mother to do her job, certain accommodations need to be made." –David Israel, Chairman of the California Horse Racing Board

Chaney and the racetrack stewards had arranged for a private space for Stra—one separate from the women's jockey room. Apparently, the track folk were not in favor of Stra's nanny using the jockey's room and didn't want the baby (or his diapers) in the kitchen.

And that's where Israel's statement comes in. He doesn't care where Stra nurses her kid or where the mom or the hired help decide to freshen him up after a blowout. He gets that these things can feel like barriers, act as discouragement—subtle or overt—to women entering the horse-racing profession, and he wants none of that.

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“Kayla Stra's baby can be in the jocks' room," Israel says. "Her nanny can be with the baby. And both the mother and the nanny can do all the things they need to do. The CHRB will not tolerate discrimination in any form against anyone for any reason. No special rooms. No one goes to the back of the damn bus. Period. In order for a new mother to do her job, certain accommodations need to be made. We clearly do not have a nursery at any of our race tracks, and I don't expect them to be constructed any time soon. Not only can a jockey also be a mother, I'd like to encourage women to consider the possibility and the profession. It is the right thing to do and it is good business."

Israel's right. It is the right thing to do and it is good for business—any business.

Now, who wants to go next?

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