Venus Williams is joining her sister Serena in speaking out against sexism in sports and is empowering her fans to stand up against the gender pay gap.
The five-time Wimbledon champion reflected on the first time she won the tournament in 2000 in the essay, republished by American Vogue on Monday. As the women’s singles champion, she received £430,000, compared to the £477,500 the men’s singles champion won.
When Williams won her fourth women’s single seven years later, she became the first woman to receive the same pay as her male counterparts. Now men and women receive equal prize money for major and combined tennis events.
"There is still a mindset that women's tennis isn't as valuable as men's," Williams wrote.
While women’s participation in sports is improving in the US, the gender gap persists and men still receive more professional opportunities, forcing many women athletes to go overseas.
"I firmly believe that sport mirrors life and life mirrors sport," Williams wrote. “The lack of equality and equal opportunities in tennis is a symptom of the obstacles women face around the world.”
The athlete pointed out that Turkey, Bahrain, and Nigeria have some of the widest pay gaps in the world.
Williams acknowledged that closing the wage gap will require national, international, and corporate action. But increasing minimum wage, wage transparency, and paid family and medical leave are places to start, she said.
Women and men both have a role to play in ending gender inequality, Williams explained.
"Sexism isn't a women's issue any more than racism is a Black issue," she wrote. "Men need to understand gender equality is about equal opportunities for women rather than men relinquishing power."
Williams also stressed that research has shown that the gender pay gap impacts women of color the most.
Inspired by learning that women earned 82.3 cents for every dollar earned by men in the US, Williams recently launched the #PrivilegeTax. The campaign allows customers to donate 19 cents at check out to the organization Girls Inc. of Greater Los Angeles when making purchases at businesses including Williams’ brand Eleven, Nordstrom, and more. Girls Inc. offers girls support in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), fields that often lack equal representation.
“When women are doing well, the family does well and so does the economy — we all win,” Williams wrote.