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Serena Williams Wants Women to 'Be Fearless' in Essay for Black Women's Equal Pay Day

Serena Williams
(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Black women make only 63 cents to a man’s dollar in America. 

For every $1 that a man makes, women as a whole make 80 cents. It's easy to focus on this comparison specifically, but to do that would be a disservice. That's because for Black women, the statistic is far worse--only 63 cents to a man's $1. That's the reality being highlighted today on Black Women's Equal Pay Day and to honor the day, tennis star Serena Williams has penned a must-read open letter on Fortune about the discriminatory pay gap she's spent her career fighting against.

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"Together, we will change the story--but we are going to have to fight for every penny," she says in the letter. "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."

The day of action for Black women is politically significant down to the day it's held on. For a Black woman to make the same amount of money as a man did in 2016, she would need to work all of 2016 and seven extra months--until today, July 31, 2017. Despite having one of the highest workplace participation rates among women, Black women face pay discrimination over and over again, regardless of their education level or the career field they're in. For Williams, the fight for equal pay is one she's dedicated to tackling head on.

After spending much of the letter going over the data, she ends on an inspired note, saying: "Every step forward you take is two steps of progress for womankind. Let today serve as a reminder that we have a voice. We deserve equal pay for our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our nieces, friends, and colleagues--but mostly, for ourselves. Black women: Be fearless. Speak out for equal pay. Every time you do, you're making it a little easier for a woman behind you. Most of all, know that you're worth it. It can take a long time to realize that. It took me a long time to realize it. But we are all worth it. I've long said, 'You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.'"

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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