Serena Williams Speaks Out For Black Women's Equal Pay Day

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Champion tennis player Serena Williams pens a moving essay for Fortune in honor of today being Black Women's Equal Pay Day.

Today, July 31, is Black Women's Equal Pay Day, which brings awareness to not only the gender pay gap, but the race pay gap.

In 2016, white women earned about 81 percent of white men's median income, but black women earned only 65 percent, the Economic Policy Institute found. Even worse, according to Mic, in 1996, black women only made 85 percent of what white women made. Last year, the progress remained bleak — black women still only earned 84 percent of what their white counterparts earned.

Other than the obvious reasons for the pay gap being wrong, a new study also found that being paid less can negatively affect women's cognitive functions as they get older.

To shed more perspective on this reality, champion tennis player and all-around badass Serena Williams penned a moving essay for Fortune. In it, she talks about the hardships she faced due to her race and gender.

"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," she wrote. "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."

Serena Williams

She continued: "But today isn't about me. It's about the 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."

She goes on to talk about the hindering effect that systemic oppression, such as sexism and poverty, has on black women — and from all walks of life and career paths.

In order to change the status quo, Williams makes a call to action for everyone to recognize the unfair system, and to support black women in demanding their fair and well-deserved share.

"In short, it's going to take all of us," she said. 

She also quotes the findings of SurveyMonkey, which she serves on the board of directors for. The survey found various discrepancies that translate to injustices, such as 69 percent of black women recognize a pay gap, while only 44 percent of white men do.

"Black women: Be fearless," she said. "Speak out for equal pay. Every time you do, you're making it a little easier for a woman behind you." 

Closing the pay gap — for everyone — would be beneficial for those not currently earning their fair share, as well as for labor markets and tax revenue dollars for governments, even on a global scale. 

Thumbnail/banner image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Flickrworker

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