“Black Women Have Been Conditioned To Think They Are Less Than:” Serena’s Powerful Essay On Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

July 31, 2017  |  

Black Women's Equal Pay Day

Credit: WENN.com

Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, a day set aside to mark the fact that, while all women are subject to unequal pay, Black women are affected by the gender wage gap disproportionately so. In fact, while, generally speaking, women make, on average, 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, Black women make just 63 cents. And that is simply unacceptable says many, including Serena Williams who wrote a powerful letter about the pay gap on Fortune today.

“I’d like to acknowledge the many realities black women face every day,” Williams began. “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% less than their white female counterparts and that black women are paid 63% of the dollar men are paid. 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.

“Together, we will change the story—but we are going to have to fight for every penny.

“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. 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. But these injustices still “hurt.

“I am in the rare position to be financially successful beyond my imagination. 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.”

Williams went on to explain she’s joined SurveyMonkey’s board of directors with the specific intent of addressing the gender pay gap and relayed findings from its latest survey on Americans’ opinions on the pay gap, which are as follows:

  • Sixty-nine percent of Black women perceive a pay gap, while just 44% of white men recognize the issue.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Black women say that major obstacles remain for women in the workplace.
  • In addition to gender, Black women see obstacles to racial equality: three-quarters of Black women workers say there are still significant hurdles holding back minorities.
  • Still, some Black women remain optimistic: more than 43% of Black millennial women believe men and women have equal opportunities for promotion.

“Unfair pay has prevailed for far too long with no consequence,” Williams added. “Through decades of systematic oppression, black women have been conditioned to think they are less than. In many cases, these women are the heads of households. Single mothers. The issue isn’t just that black women hold lower-paying jobs. They earn less even in fields of technology, finance, entertainment, law, and medicine.

“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.”

Read Williams’ full essay outlining the work she says needs to be done to “get back those 37 cents” on Fortune.com.

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