Tennis champion Serena Williams knows too well the systemic racism Black women face in their professional lives. In a recent piece for Fortune Magazine, Williams advocated for equal salaries and brought Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which was Monday, July 31st.
“I’d like to acknowledge the many realities Black women face every day,” she writes. “To recognize that women of color have to work—on average—eight months longer to earn the same as their male counterparts do in one year. To bring attention to the fact that Black women earn 17 percent less than their white female counterparts and that black women are paid 63 percent of the dollar men are paid. 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.”
Williams is no stranger to the pay gap. As reported by the Huffington Post, she has at various times been paid less than her White male counterparts. She also briefly mentioned other ways she’d been discriminated against throughout her career. Her comments come on the heels of racist comments about her pregnancy, as well as gross underestimation of her talents. Williams wrote that if she’d never played tennis, she would be one of the “other 24 million black women in America” who are underpaid for their labor.
While Williams urged women to “change the story” and “fight for every penny,” the pathway to those goals still remains elusive. Williams didn’t suggest specific steps to organizing for better pay, and she admitted that she was still trying to figure out how she could “move the needle.” While her op-ed seemed to address Black women, Fortune’s primary audience is White, wealthy men. Ultimately, Williams used her platform to raise White awareness about an issue Black men and women have encountered since Plymoth Rock landed on them.