In an essay for Fortune, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams called for equal pay for black women.
She wrote the essay on July 31, which is the Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.
She says the extra number of months it takes a black woman to make what a man makes in a year is an average of eight months.
She wrote the essay “to bring attention to the fact that black women earn 17% less than their white female counterparts. Black women are 37 cents behind men in the pay gap—in other words, for every dollar a man makes, black women make 63 cents.”
She notes that the unequal pay isn’t just a reality for low-paying jobs, as black women earn less even in technology, finance, entertainment, law, and medicine.
“Even black women who have earned graduate degrees get paid less at every level. This is as true in inner cities as it is in Silicon Valley. This is as true in inner cities as it is in Silicon Valley,” she says.
Serena does recognize her privilege, saying: “I am in the rare position to be financially successful beyond my imagination. […] 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.”
She calls for employees to demand more from their employers, saying it is the only way the wage gap can be covered. She said:
Changing the status quo will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more. In short, it’s going to take all of us. Men, women, of all colors, races and creeds to realize this is an injustice. And an injustice to one is an injustice to all.
Serena Williams also asked black women to speak up, urging them to be fearless. She said:
Black women: 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 realize that. It took me a long time to realize it.
“In celebration of Equal Pay Day for Black Women, I partnered with SurveyMonkey to find out Americans’ opinions on the pay gap,” she wrote adding “The response was powerful. Here are the key findings:
- Sixty-nine percent of black women perceive a pay gap, while just 44% of white men recognize the issue.
- Nearly two-thirds of black women say that major obstacles remain for women in the workplace.
- In addition to gender, black women see obstacles to racial equality: three-quarters of black women workers say there are still significant hurdles holding back minorities.
- Still, some black women remain optimistic: more than 43% of black millennial women believe men and women have equal opportunities for promotion.
Read the full essay HERE.