Serena Williams has further cemented her status as inimitable feminist legend by calling on black women to demand the equal pay they deserve.
In a stunning personal essay published by Fortune, the tennis champion highlighted the shocking pay gap that exists for race as well as gender, with black women in the US making just 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
Women of colour, she writes, “have to work – on average – eight months longer to earn the same as their male counterparts do in one year”.
Black women also earn 17 per cent less than their female white American counterparts.
“Growing up, I was told I couldn’t accomplish my dreams because I was a woman and, more so, because of the colour of my skin,” Williams continues. “In every stage of my life, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out.”
Now worth a net $170million (130m), she’s using her platform in order to raise concerns about “the other 24million black women in America”.
“The cycles of poverty, discrimination and sexism are much, much harder to break than the record for Grand Slam titles,” she says, drawing attention to the generations of “systematic oppression” that have led black women to accept their lot with the belief that they are simply worth less.
“Most black women across our country do not have the same support that I did, and so they often don’t speak out about what is just, fair and appropriate in the workplace. When they do, they are often punished for it.”
“Changing the status quo will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more,” she concludes. “In short, it’s going to take all of us.
“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 realise that. It took me a long time to realise 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.”
Williams’ essay was published on 31 July, which marked Black Women’s Equal Pay Day in the States. Other high-profile women speaking out on the issue including Issa Rae and Janelle Monae.
Of course, the US isn’t the only place a race and gender pay gap exists. According to a study conducted by the Fawcett Society in connection with Manchester University, black African women in the UK earn 19.6 per cent less than white men. Pakistani and Bangladeshi women experience the biggest pay gap at 26.2 per cent. White British women experience a pay gap of 13.6 per cent, while Black Caribbean women experience a gap of 5.5 per cent behind white men.
Read the full essay here.