Seven-time Grand Slam singles tennis champion Venus Williams wrote a powerful letter in British Vogue about the inequality she's faced in her sport. "I always dreamed of winning tournaments like Wimbledon," she shared. "Then, when I finally got there, I was struck by the inequality." In 2000, she won Wimbledon for the first time, the men's singles champion received £477,500 — the women's singles champion earned less, £430,000. This drove Venus in her fight against inequality.
"I firmly believe that sport mirrors life and life mirrors sport," she said. There are obstacles and inequality in women's tennis because that's what women face in the world. And it was this shocking statistic — in the US, women made 82.3 cents for every dollar men made in 2019 — that inspired Venus to start the #PrivilegeTax campaign, to "fill the gap," using her own lifestyle and activewear company, EleVen by Venus Williams.
Through the month of March, inspired by Equal Pay Day on March 24, customers can choose to donate 19 cents at checkout when they shop with participating brands — Nordstrom, Tracy Anderson, Tom Brady's TB12, Carbon38, Credo Beauty, and her plant-based protein company, Happy Viking. One hundred percent of customers' donations will go to Girls Inc. in Los Angeles, an organisation that provides girls with support through its enriching program that focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) education.
Venus mentioned that a 2019 World Economic Forum study found that it'd take approximately 257 years to close this gap, but that the pandemic is at risk of slowing down our progress further. "We owe it to our daughters and granddaughters to ensure closing the gap doesn't take that long," she said.
This isn't just a women's issue, and progress toward inequality isn't possible without men being part of the solution. "Sexism isn't a women's issue any more than racism is a Black issue," Venus said. And this gender pay gap affects women of colour the hardest. "As an African-American woman, to know how hard we have to fight to show we're human beings with a heart that beats just like everybody else; to know what it's like to face biases based on gender and race is why I'm so passionate about campaigning for equality across the board," Venus said.
After 39 years of women fighting for equal prize money, Venus is proud to have become the first woman who fought for and finally received equal pay in 2007 when she became a four-time Wimbledon champion. But the fight isn't over. Many still think women's tennis isn't as valuable as men's. "I refuse to let that mindset dictate my success," she said. "And we must not allow it to dictate society's progress."