Serena Williams has written a powerful essay about the pay gap that affects black women in the United States.
The tennis star penned an article in Fortune magazine calling for an end to a situation that sees black women in the US paid just 63 cents for every dollar a man makes.
“I am in the rare position to be financially successful beyond my imagination. I had talent, I worked like crazy and I was lucky enough to break through,” acknowledged Williams.
“But today isn’t about me. It’s about the other 24 million black women in America. If I never picked up a tennis racket, I would be one of them; that is never lost on me.”
Her essay was published on July 31, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, and she urged: “Be fearless. Speak out for equal pay. Every time you do, you’re making it a little easier for a woman behind you.
“Most of all, know that you’re worth it. It can take a long time to realise that. It took me a long time to realize it. But we are all worth it. I’ve long said, ‘You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.'”
Williams, who is pregnant with her first child, used her own experiences to highlight the reality of being a black woman in the 21st century – albeit an incredibly successful one.
“Growing up, I was told I couldn’t accomplish my dreams because I was a woman and, more so, because of the color of my skin,” she wrote.
“In every stage of my life, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out. I have been treated unfairly, I’ve been disrespected by my male colleagues and—in the most painful times—I’ve been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court.”
July 31 was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Black women are the cornerstone of our communities, they are phenomenal, and they deserve equal pay.
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In 2016, Williams spoke out against inequality in tennis after Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore said women’s tennis was riding on the coat-tails of men’s tennis. She also wrote an article in November 2016 for Porter magazine, calling for women to ‘dream big’.
Earlier this year, John McEnroe said Williams would “be, like, 700 in the world” if she played against male players.
“The cycles of poverty, discrimination, and sexism are much, much harder to break than the record for Grand Slam titles,” wrote Williams in Fortune.
“For every black woman that rises through the ranks to a position of power, there are too many others who are still struggling.”
She explained that she has recently joined Survey Monkey’s board of directors, and their most recent findings show that 69 per cent of black women perceive a pay gap compared to 44 per cent of white men.
They also discovered that nearly two-thirds of black women said there were still major obstacles in the workplace for women.
“Data doesn’t lie,” said Williams. “It just gives a number to the gap women feel every day. It is my hope that I can give a voice to those who aren’t heard in Silicon Valley, and the workforce as a whole.”
Williams’s comments come in the wake of a gender pay row that has engulfed the BBC, with female presenters paid less than their male counterparts. Last month, more than broadcaster wrote an open letter to demand equal pay.