'You're worth it'

Serena Williams calls on black women to ‘be fearless’ and demand equal pay

Serena Williams (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

Tennis superstar Serena Williams has entered the whirlwind world of Silicon Valley, and her first challenge is taking on the gender pay gap. In an op-ed for Fortune written in recognition of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Williams noted that black women make only 63 cents on the dollar compared to what a white man makes. In order to make the same amount of money as a white man, she observed, black women would have to work an average of eight months longer. That discrepancy, she added, wasn’t just the result of black women working in less affluent industries.

“Even black women who have earned graduate degrees get paid less at every level,” wrote Williams. “This is as true in inner cities as it is in Silicon Valley.”

Williams, who is regarded by many as the greatest tennis player of all time, has recently entered the world of Silicon Valley herself by joining online pollster SurveyMonkey’s board of directors. In collaboration with SurveyMonkey, Williams conducted a poll about how Americans perceive the pay gap. She found that while 69 percent of black women perceived a pay gap, only 44 percent of white men did. Three-quarters of black women also said there were still significant obstacles holding back minorities, and nearly two-thirds of black women felt that women in general were being held back in the workplace. On the bright side, Williams noted, younger women seemed to be more optimistic about their chances — more than 43 percent of black millennial women felt that women and men were considered equally for promotions.

In the end, Williams concluded, employers have to recognize that male and female employees must be treated, and paid, equally.

“The cycles of poverty, discrimination, and sexism,” Williams wrote, “are much, much harder to break than the record for Grand Slam titles.”

Nevertheless, Williams added, there was always meaning in demanding more — both from oneself, and from one’s employers.

“Be fearless. Speak out for equal pay,” Williams suggested. “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.”

Read the full story at Fortune.


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