Serena Williams demands equal pay for black women: 'Let's get back those 37 cents'

Serena Williams is speaking out for equal pay for women. Getty Images

Serena Williams comes from the most successful family in tennis, but she hasn't forgotten where she came from. Williams wrote a personal piece, published by Fortune Magazine, bemoaning the lack of equality in how men and women are paid, and going further to assert that for black women the gender gap is even higher, saying that black women make 63 cents for every dollar a man earns (as opposed to the often cited statistic of women making 82 cents to every man's dollar).

Williams wrote an impassioned plea in the essay, saying that "black women have been conditioned to think they are less than [men]." She went on to say that "changing the status quo will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more. In short, it's going to take all of us. Men, women, of all colors, races and creeds to realize this is an injustice. And an injustice to one is an injustice to all."

She also acknowledged her own personal success in the article, but made it a point to make it known that she had to work to get to where she is and she is an exception.

"I am in the rare position to be financially successful beyond my imagination," she wrote. "I had talent, I worked like crazy and I was lucky enough to break through. 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."

To further drive her point home, Williams, a recently added member of Survey Monkey's board of directors, made her initiative behind the decision clear:

"In celebration of Equal Pay Day for Black Women," she said. "I partnered with SurveyMonkey to find out Americans' opinions on the pay gap." Williams called the findings "powerful," and wrote that 69 percent of black women perceive a pay gap, whereas 44 percent of white men recognize one; two-thirds of black women recognized major obstacles in the workplace; 75 percent of black women workers see major obstacles for minorities, and 43 percent of black millennial women perceive an equal opportunity for them in terms of promotion.

Williams's stories aren't all based on numbers, however. "Growing up, I was told I couldn't accomplish my dreams because I was a woman and, more so, because of the color of my skin," she recalled. "In every stage of my life, I've had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out. 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."

It's not hard to find examples of Williams being harassed. Comment sections and message boards in pieces about her are filled with disparaging remarks. Williams has been involved in a long-standing, one-sided "rivalry" with tennis legend John McEnroe, with gender being the root of that rivalry.

Williams will go down as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, that much is undeniable. However, she wants her platform to go further than her own legacy. She ends her essay with an extremely understated request: "Let's get back those 37 cents."

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