Serena Williams: Black women should demand equal pay


In a powerful essay written in Fortune Magazine in honor of Black Women's Equal Pay Day in the US, Serena Williams, the 23-time grand slam winner, called attention to the massive pay gap Black women in the US and around the world face.

In the US, Black women make 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes, but only 44% of white men even recognize that there is an issue.

In the UK, Black African women experience the largest full-time gender pay gap with white men at 19.6%, and have seen virtually no progress in closing that gap since the 1990s.

Williams calls for everyone to push the issue of the pay gap to the “front of conversations” to make employers understand that “all male and female employees must be compensated equally. Not close. Not almost the same. Equally.”

She then writes about how the pay gap is not an issue of Black women taking lower-paying jobs, as many people say in response to the pay gap. Black women “earn less even in fields of 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.”

She also recognizes in her essay the unique situation she is in as a celebrity and elite sport star, writing, “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.

“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.”

But her celebrity and incredible winning record are not enough to fight off criticism from men, especially white men. Even though Serena Williams is widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest tennis players, she is still constantly put down, most recently and notably by former men’s champion John McEnroe when he said Williams would “be, like, 700 in the world” if she played on the men’s tour.

At the end of her essay, Williams includes a call to her fellow 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. But we are all worth it. I’ve long said, ‘You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.’

Let’s get back those 37 cents.”

We at OBV commend Ms. Williams on her excellent essay and call to fight for racial and gender equality, and will proudly fight for equal pay for men and women of all races with her.

Abigail Kass