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Dublin: 20 °C Tuesday 14 August, 2018
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Serena Williams has written a powerful essay calling for equal pay for black women

“Let’s get back those 37 cents.”

JULY 31, 2017 was ‘Black Women’s Equal Pay Day’ in the US.

And the date was chosen for a very specific reason:

July 31st marks the end of an extra seven months that black women would have needed to work in order to earn the same as their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts did in 2016.

The stat came from the Economic Policy Institute, and was marked yesterday by a host of people speaking out on the issue.

And perhaps the biggest name to weigh in was Serena Williams

She wrote an essay for Fortune Magazine outlining the problems of inequality in stark terms:

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.

My Mom

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

She continued with her personal insight into inequality she has faced:

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.

Serena is fully aware of the privileged position she’s in now, and knows that yesterday wasn’t about her:

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.

Some of the lines in the essay are powerful and instantly memorable:

The cycles of poverty, discrimination, and sexism are much, much harder to break than the record for Grand Slam titles.
For every black woman that rises through the ranks to a position of power, there are too many others who are still struggling. Most black women across our country do not have the same support that I did, and so they often don’t speak out about what is just, fair and appropriate in the workplace. When they do, they are often punished for it.

And she calls on everyone to realise that it’s wrong:

Men, women, of all colors, races and creeds to realize this is an injustice. And an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

The full essay is worth a read here, and the closing paragraph alone is getting attention online this morning

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About the author:

David Elkin

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