High-profile stars like Taraji P. Henson, Emma
Tennis titan Serena Williams joined the fold earlier this week, posting an open letter on Instagram to “all incredible women who strive for excellence.”
Williams knew from the jump that she’d have to fight harder than many Americans to achieve her dreams of becoming the best tennis player in the world. “What others marked as flaws or disadvantages about myself — my race, my gender — I embraced as fuel for my success,” she writes.
The “flaws or disadvantages” Williams describes actually set women, especially women of color, back by a striking margin. In 2015, white women in America made 75 percent the amount white men made. African-American women made only 63 percent of that amount, and Hispanic women made a meager 54 percent.
Imagine cutting your paycheck in half.
Proponents argue that the above statistics don’t consider the fact that women as a whole work lower-paying jobs than men. Let’s just forget about the innumerable cultural factors that contribute to women “choosing” lower-paying careers. Even when the gender pay gap is adjusted to account for differences in education, experience, age, location, job title,
Williams articulates this experience perfectly in her letter.
“So when the subject of equal pay comes up, it frustrates me because I know firsthand that I, like you, have done the same work and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts,” she writes.
What can you do about it? Well, you can start by changing the way you talk. Williams’ letter isn’t just about the literally high-stakes gender pay gap — it’s also about the very language that society uses to marginalize women.
“Do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger? Is Federer? Why not? They certainly are not female,” Williams writes. “We should never let this go unchallenged. We should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender.”
Despite the odds of “overcoming” her gender and race to become successful, Williams has achieved her dream of being one of the best tennis players in the world. Now she’s just asking for proper recognition and pay — and we’re betting she’s going to get it. Now you go get yours.
What Do YOU Think?
What do you think of Williams’ letter? Is Instagram an effective political platform? How do you think gender impacts your professional life? Let us know what you think in the comments section!