Serena Williams has penned an open letter encouraging women and girls not to let their gender or race define them. In the piece, originally published in the December issue of Porter Magazine, the superstar noted that she always hoped to become the world’s greatest tennis player.
“My dream wasn’t like that of an average kid,” she wrote. “My dream was to be the best tennis player in the world. Not the best ‘female’ tennis player in the world.”
The 22-time Grand Slam champion credited her family’s support for her success in the sport, but she also noted that she has never backed down from lofty goals.
“I learned how important it is to fight for a dream and, most importantly, to dream big,” she said. “My fight began when I was 3 and I haven’t taken a break since.”
However, Williams acknowledged the lack of support many women receive while pursuing their dreams. To hone in on her goals, she said she welcomed naysayers who mocked her gender and her Blackness.
“For me, it was a question of resilience,” Williams wrote. “What others marked as flaws or disadvantages about myself — my race, my gender — I embraced as fuel for my success. I never let anything or anyone define me or my potential. I controlled my future.
“So when the subject of equal pay comes up,” she continued, “it frustrates me because I know firsthand that I, like you, have done the same work and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts. I would never want my daughter to be paid less than my son for the same work. Nor would you.”
This isn’t the first time the 35-year-old has discussed the gender pay gap and her fears for her future children. She told Glamour magazine, “It doesn’t seem fair” that she earns less income than her male colleagues.
“Will I have to explain to my daughter that her brother is gonna make more money doing the exact same job because he’s a man?” she wondered. “If they both played sports since they were 3 years old, they both worked just as hard, but because he’s a boy, they’re gonna give him more money?”
In her Porter essay, Williams reflected on the way women are “constantly reminded we are not men, as if it is a flaw.”
“People call me one of the ‘world’s greatest female athletes,’ ” she continued. “Do they say [basketball player] LeBron [James] is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is [golfer] Tiger [Woods]? [Tennis player] [Roger] Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female. We should never let this go unchallenged. We should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender.”
The philanthropic tennis pro signed off by encouraging women to always set lofty goals: “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.”