Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, a day to reflect on and fight the significant wage gap black women face in the workforce. In order to make the same amount of money as a man did in 2016, black women would need to work all of 2016, plus seven extra months — until today, July 31, 2017. Serena Williams, who has long made equal pay a cause of hers, wrote an essay for Fortune about why it’s so important to acknowledge this day.
Unfair pay has prevailed for far too long with no consequence. Through decades of systematic oppression, black women have been conditioned to think they are less than. In many cases, these women are the heads of households. Single mothers. The issue isn’t just that black women hold lower-paying jobs. They earn less even in fields of technology, finance, entertainment, law, and medicine.
Williams added, “Data doesn’t lie. It just gives a number to the gap women feel every day.” Women on average make 80 cents for every dollar their male counterparts receive, but black women in particular are hit hard by the gender pay gap. For every dollar their white counterparts make, black women are paid on average only 63 cents.
In her essay, Williams promises to make a consistent effort on behalf of black women in Silicon Valley — a particularly male-dominated industry — and in the workplace at large. She encourages other women to speak up, too: “Be fearless. Speak out for equal pay. Every time you do, you’re making it a little easier for a woman behind you.” But Williams also acknowledges that speaking up is not enough. The gender pay gap will only be closed with “dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more.”