Williams sisters join Billie Jean King for equal pay push

FILE - In this March 2, 2009, file photo, Billie Jean King is flanked by Venus, left, and Serena Williams after Serena defeated Venus in the championship match of the Billie Jean King Cup tennis exhibition, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Venus and Serena Williams are adding their names and voices to the push for equal pay championed by the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative. The two current tennis stars are joining the advisory board of the group founded by the former player. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin, File)

A day before playing in the 2005 final at the All England Club, Venus Williams addressed a meeting of the Grand Slam Board, urging Wimbledon and the French Open to offer equal pay to male and female players.

“I said: ‘All of our hearts beat the same. When your eyes are closed, you really can’t tell, next to you, who’s a man and who’s a woman.’ And [I asked them] to think about their daughters and their wives and sisters. How would they like them to be treated?” Williams recalled.

The following afternoon, she won one of her seven major singles championships. About 1½ years later, Wimbledon announced it would, indeed, offer the same prize money to men and women in all rounds of the tournament, and the French Open soon followed suit, eliminating the pay gap at the four majors.

Now, Williams and her sister, Serena, are adding their names and voices to the push for equal pay across all types of jobs that the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI) is championing.

The two current tennis stars are joining the advisory board of the group founded by the former player, and the announcement was timed to coincide with Equal Pay Day.

“Venus, in particular, helped us get equal prize money in the majors. She was amazing. She really got Wimbledon to make the big step,” King said. “Venus has always had the courage to step up. And Serena’s the same way. They’ve been through a lot themselves, so they totally understand what’s going on.

“The two of them have transcended sports. The BJKLI is not about sports. It’s about every industry. To try to get equal pay for equal work, and that means across the board, from CEOs down to entry level.”