Serena Williams has once again spoken out as an advocate for gender equality and black women’s rights by penning a moving essay published in Fortune, overnight.
The piece, written in honour of ‘Black Women’s Equal Pay Day’ acknowledges the very real struggles still faced by many African-American women who earn on average 37 cents less on the dollar than their white male counterparts. In other words, as Williams aptly notes, “for every dollar a man makes, black women make 63 cents.”
The stark statistics aren’t solely based on education or socio-economics, “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” writes Williams.
Having just acquired a seat at the board of tech company ‘SurveyMonkey’, Williams said she felt compelled to explore the issue further and find out how Americans perceived the gender pay gap by conducting a national poll.
The key findings were both powerful and telling. 69 percent of black women for instance, perceive an obvious pay gap, while only 44 percent of white men recognise the same problem. Nearly two-thirds of black women believe major obstacles remain for women in the workplace as a whole, and three quarters of black women perceive major hurdles still hold back minority groups in America.
Williams notes her own success but recognises the luck associated with her unique position. “I had talent, I worked like crazy and I was lucky enough to break through” she writes. “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.”
For Williams, changing the status quo is dependent on widespread recognition of the issue at hand. It “will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more” she says. “In short, it’s going to take all of us. Men, women, of all colours, races and creeds to realise this is an injustice. And an injustice to one is an injustice to all.”
More than anything, Williams notes that change requires the broad determination to do better. The will to ensure that all men and women, all groups in society, are “compensated equally. Not close. Not almost the same. Equally.”
“Let’s get back those 37 cents” she says.