Venus Williams takes on the pay gap that gave her a rude awakening at 16

She won her first Grand Slam in 1998, but it wasn't until 2006 that Williams got the same Wimbledon prize as Roger Federer.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Venus Williams explained that it was her first Grand Slam win at the age of 16 that gave her a “rude awakening” into the pay gap between men and women in America.

“I don’t want any other young women to have to face that,” the tennis icon told Gayle King, according to People. “Women are earning 82 cents to the dollar that men are earning. If you’re a minority, if you’re living out of the country, it gets even worse.”

2021 Australian Open: Day 1
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 08: Venus Williams of The United States of America celebrates after winning match point in her Women’s Singles first round match against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium during day one of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 08, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“It’s important to call attention to this,” she insisted, “that people know this, because women not only need equal opportunity, but it gives them opportunity to grow and become strong and to help their families.”

Williams won her first Grand Slam in 1998, but it was not until 2006 that she made history by receiving the same prize money at Wimbledon as Roger Federer. Much has changed since that time, she noted, including a victory just last month for the USA Women’s Soccer Team, who won an equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Williams appeared on CBS This Morning to talk about the Privilege Tax initiative, which gives customers the option to donate $1 to Girls, Inc., when they buy items from participating firms, including Williams’ own company, EleVen.

She hopes to recruit more participants in the initiative, she said, telling King “there’s got to be more organizations. People do want to do this, but it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

“When we were fighting for equal prize money for women in tennis, we used the media as our partners to tell our story and to advocate for us and to let people know,” Williams said last week on Equal Pay Day when announcing the initiative, which is a partnership with CreditKarma, according to USA Today.

“And even if you are a person that didn’t agree with it, you knew about it,” she said. “If you walk down the street and talk to someone right now and ask them, ‘What is the pay gap and data when it comes to pay equity?’ And no one is really thinking about it as much as they should and having these conversations. So that is where the media can play a big role.”

In addition to talking about equal pay, Williams also took a few moments to share that she and her sister, Serena, are cheering for Will Smith — who portrayed father Richard Williams — to win the Academy Award for King Richard. They two are also rooting for Aunjanue Ellis, who starred as their mother, Oracene Price.

“I’m so happy to call Will not only the person who’s memorialized my family story, but also my friend,” Williams told King. “He just portrayed my dad so closely … there were moments where we were listening to the livestream or watching the livestream being filmed, and I would hear my dad’s voice and it gave me goosebumps, how close he got to my father.”

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