Serena Williams is all too familiar with the challenges that come with being a hard-working black woman, including the unfair reality of wage disparity.
In honor of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day on Monday, the day the average black woman’s pay finally catches up to the average white man’s pay from the previous year, Williams wrote a moving a piece for Fortune in which she not only gets personal about her own experiences being paid less than the white men and women in her field but also identifies ways to help close the wide wage gap for all women of color.
“I’d like to acknowledge the many realities black women face every day,” she wrote in the piece published Monday. “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.”
Williams wrote about her own experiences with inequity and discrimination over the years ― as well as how they motivated her to push for change and no longer stay silent about injustices like sexism and racism.
“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 wrote. “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.”
“Luckily, I am blessed with an inner drive and a support system of family and friends that encourage me to move forward,” she added. “But these injustices still hurt.”
Williams has spoken previously about her experiences with the wage gap, especially as a woman in professional sports, and her will to continue to help bring about positive changes for women everywhere. However, she also reckons with the unique challenges black women face in America and is actively using her platform to help ensure that they matter, too.
“Through decades of systematic oppression, black women have been conditioned to think they are less than,” she wrote. “Changing the status quo will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more….an injustice to one is an injustice to all.”
As a way help raise more awareness and action around the wage gap, Williams said she joined Survey Monkey’s board of directors to help address the issues of inequity in the workplace ― starting with pay. And in honor of Monday’s commemoration of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, she partnered with the company to release key findings from surveys the company conducted around black womens’ wages in the workplace, which they released on Monday. One outcome showed that 69 percent of black women perceive a pay gap, while just 44 percent of white men recognize the issue.
“Unfair pay has prevailed for far too long with no consequence,” Williams wrote. “Black women: 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.”