Serena Williams Fights for Equal Pay for Women of Colour

The tennis champ penned a moving essay on the wage gap.

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In honor of Black Women's Equal Pay Day, Serena Williams penned an essay for Fortune on the harrowing wage gap women of colour face, and what people can do to change it. At the onset, the superstar athlete hits us with the facts: Black women make 63 percent of what white men make, and earn 17 percent less than white women.

"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 writes. "Together, we will change the story—but we are going to have to fight for every penny."

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Though Williams admits she's "financially successful" (she's the only female in Forbes' highest paid athletes of 2017 list with a $27 million pay); she's still not immune to being treated differently because of her ethnicity and because she's a woman. Just weeks ago, she was the subject of sexist comments by fellow tennis star Joe McEnroe. And in April, she received racist insults from yet another tennis player, who made crude comments about her skin colour.

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"In every stage of my life, I've had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out," Williams recalls. "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."

But that's not just something she encounters on a personal level, it's a common experience women in the black community face. "Through decades of systematic oppression, black women have been conditioned to think they are less than," she adds. "In many cases, these women are the heads of households. Single mothers. The issue isn't just that black women hold lower-paying jobs. They earn less even in fields of technology, finance, entertainment, law, and medicine."

Though the disparity is wide, Williams believes change is possible, but it requires help from men and women of all races and financial backgrounds to recognize the problem, and understand that "an injustice to one is an injustice to all."

The pro-athlete also joined SurveyMonkey's board of directors to raise awareness on the pay gap black women face. According to a study she helped initiate, 69 percent of black women are aware of the wage gap, while only 44 percent of white men are. Three-quarters of black women also admit they see major hurdles holding back racial minorities in the workplace.

Williams leaves her fellow women of colour with words of encouragement. "I want to bring my perspective and experiences as an athlete, an entrepreneur and a black woman to the boardroom and help create a more inclusive environment in this white, male-dominated industry. And I want every woman of colour to do the same," she writes.

"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," she adds. "Most of all, know that you're worth it."

From: AR Revista
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