African-American women are paid significantly less than white men and women, according to multiple data sets, and one tennis player is speaking out in a letter against the wage gap disparity.
A pregnant Serena Williams is lending her voice to workplace issues that reward men at the expense of female counterparts, particularly for African-American women. Williams, who is the most decorated and dominant WTA player in the modern era, penned a letter on “Black Women’s Equal Pay Day” 2017. Serena’s candid prose highlights the practice of paying women of color less than white males and females who perform the same work.
“Equal Pay Day” was last celebrated for all women on April 4, 2017. Current statistics show that women earn only 82 cents for every dollar that men make. The date “floats” or changes based on how much longer through the next year a woman has to work to earn the same pay, as the letter suggests.
For example, based on the current average pay gap date, if a man earned $100 last year, a woman has to work until April 4, 2017, to earn the same wages.
In her letter, Serena Williams, 35, says the wage disparity “hits black women harder” than whites. As a consequence, women of color have to work even longer — until today, July 31 — to earn the same income, according to Fortune.
“I’d like to acknowledge the many realities black women face every day. 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.”
Serena recalls in her youth when the prevailing messages to women and girls were sexist and oppressive. Williams was constantly being told she had to cope with living in a man’s world. Moreover, her experience with racism created a double-whammy; not only did she endure sexist practices, but she also had to overcome a myriad of limitations due to the “color” of her skin.
Serena Williams, along with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and others, sits on the board of Survey Monkey, a popular company that provides an online suite of software for actionable insights. Williams asserted in her equal pay letter that “the data doesn’t lie” and shows a disturbing pattern of “unfair pay” that has lasted too long and without consequences.
Further, in her letter, Serena says gender pay gaps for black women are directly related to “systematic oppression.” Consequently, women of color have been conditioned to cope with the disparity and believe they are “less than” their male and female counterparts.
The tennis icon is on maternity leave from the sport and is preparing to give birth to her first baby. Williams’ last match was the 2017 Australian Open, where she won the title.
It’s unclear when Serena’s baby is due for arrival, but multiple sources say Williams could deliver her baby soon. Reportedly, she and her husband, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, decided to forgo learning the gender of their child until “labor” day.
So, what’s the answer to shrinking the wage gap between men and women, as Serena Williams points out in her letter? The Cut writer Dayna Evans offers a multi-pronged solution that doesn’t merely place the onus on bosses.
“Employers need to be held responsible, too, she argued. But this year, let’s take it one step further: It’s not just bosses who have a role to play in equal pay. The responsibility should lie with all men,” she said, saying the fight must be collective.
“Men like to say they can’t afford to be sexist because they have daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, and girlfriends, so let’s flip the script: We all have brothers, fathers, husbands, boyfriends, and sons, so surely we shouldn’t be experiencing pay disparity, right? Those men are fighting for us, too, right? Right?”
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[Featured Image by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images]