Serena Williams: The Pay Gap for Black Women in America Is Real

Image via Getty
Image via Getty

For Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Serena Williams wrote an essay that reiterates how much the gender pay gap disproportionately affects black women workers.


In her piece for Fortune, Williams (who’s made this her cause) cites a series of sad statistics, including that black women’s salaries are on average 17 percent less than white women’s and that “for every dollar a man makes, black women make 63 cents.” Also, college-educated black women still earn less than their counterparts across the board. “This is as true in inner cities as it is in Silicon Valley,” Williams writes, adding that if she weren’t the best sports player alive, she’d be part of those statistics:

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.

These might all sound like obvious practical points that are widely known, but even when there is conversation around the issue, what compounds the problem is that privileged groups routinely fail to acknowledge that a wage gap even exists. Williams notes that, according to a survey conducted as part of her partnership with SurveyMonkey, 69 percent of black women perceive that there is pay inequity, compared to only 44 percent of white men.

Although the essay’s title boils it down to “How Black Women Can Close the Pay Gap,” there are clearly external factors at play:

While a majority of those surveyed believe that the pay gap is real for both women and minorities, not everyone understands that black workers—specifically women—see more obstacles to racial equality and barriers in the workplace. Data doesn’t lie. It just gives a number to the gap women feel every day. 
It is my hope that I can give a voice to those who aren’t heard in Silicon Valley, and the workforce as a whole.

Culture Editor, Jezebel


Snake Person

Love her.

Still wish that when women wrote these pieces they wouldn’t attribute their success to their “internal drive.” Yes, that is a factor, but it’s a factor for women without the same outcome, the same women you’re writing the essay about. Women who are driven, who work hard, who are resilient and brilliant, but are shut out, shut down and undervalued.