Serena Williams has written an open letter “to all incredible women who strive for excellence”, imploring them to “dream big” – and to continue the fight against gender stereotypes and for equal pay.
The powerful letter was published in Porter magazine’s ‘Incredible Women of 2016’ December issue, and reprinted in the Guardian. In it, the tennis champion spoke of her childhood ambitions, her determination to succeed, and of the obstacles she has had to overcome.
“When I was growing up, I had a dream… My dream was to be the best tennis player in the world,” Williams, 35, wrote. “Not the best ‘female’ tennis player in the world.”
But she said that she had had to “break down many barriers” on her way to the top.
“One of those barriers is the way we are constantly reminded we are not men, as if it is a flaw,” Williams wrote. “People call me one of the ‘world’s greatest female athletes’. Do they say LeBron [James] is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger [Woods]? [Roger] Federer?
“Why not? They are certainly not female. We should never let this go unchallenged.”
The superstar athlete, who has spoken out against the gender pay gap in the past, also wrote of her frustration that the issue has still not been resolved.
“I know firsthand that I, like you, have done the same work and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts,” she said. “I would never want my daughter to be paid less than my son for the same work. Nor would you.”
While tennis has been cited as one of the best sports for paying male and female athletes equally, female players generally still earn significantly less than their male peers. At the Western & Southern Open in August this year, Federer reportedly earned $731,000, while Williams – who, like her male counterpart, had won the singles title – made $495,000.
Watch: The story of the gender pay gap
Ultimately, Williams implored the women reading her letter to “push for greatness and follow their dreams with steadfast resilience” – observing that “resilience” is what enabled her to get where she is today.
“What others marked as flaws or disadvantages about myself – my race, my gender – I embraced as fuel for my success,” she wrote. “I never let anything or anyone define my potential… We must continue to dream big, and in doing so, we empower the next generation of women to be just as bold in their pursuits.”
Images: Rex Features