Wage equity and pay transparency are essential parts of the new world of work. And Venus Williams is fighting to keep pay equity at the front of the conversation.
Aside from being one of the most accomplished and inspiring women in sports history, Venus Williams is a successful entrepreneur. Between her professional ventures in sports, fashion, design, and wellness, she’s remained a steadfast advocate for gender equality. Among her many successes, Williams helped female Wimbledon players earn equal pay and continues her pay equity advocacy via the #PrivilegeTax campaign.
Ceridian was honored to host Venus Williams at INSIGHTS 2022, our flagship customer event. Here’s a recap of the INSIGHTS 2022 conversation between tennis champion and entrepreneur, Venus Williams and Ceridian’s Co-CEO, Leagh Turner.
Turner and Williams’ conversation began in the world of work, discussing how to find purpose in life and achieving success at work. From the court to the boardroom, Williams shared that “the best way to push yourself is to push yourself physically. When you push yourself physically, what you’re really pushing is your mind.”
As a professional athlete, Williams sees the mind-body connection at the center of living a purpose-driven life. The tension between fighting on or giving up becomes most apparent when at your physical limits. Williams went on to say, “When you push yourself physically, you start to have that mental battle. And when you have that mental battle, then you start to find what you’re really made out of. And then you can decide to quit or keep going.”
Finding grit is key for professional success. And that determination carries forward into the rest of Williams’ life, especially in her work fighting for pay equity.
Williams recounted that she first experienced gender-based wage inequity at the young age of 16. She had lost in the early rounds of a tournament, and when she received the check, it was less than a man who lost in the same round. Even as a young girl, she remembers reacting to the discovery: “It was shocking.” From that moment, Williams had an awareness of and determination to fight against pay inequity. Williams then shared about her advocacy work with the #PrivilegeTax.
“We started an initiative called the privilege tax. And it’s to bring awareness to women being paid less than men. And also awareness to what we can do to change that,” Williams explained. When Turner asked what Williams hopes will come out of the initiative, Williams shared, “There’s ups and downs in this battle just as there is in life. But I’m hopeful that we can start to turn this around sooner than later…I would love if it happened in my lifetime. So, that’s my hope, ultimately.”
If you’re interested in joining Williams’ challenge, commit to making Equal Pay Day – which historically falls on March 15 – a reality every day. Join the effort and support the movement by following #PrivilegeTax on social media.
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Aside from her advocacy work, Williams has built several successful businesses. After spending years managing her companies and meeting with staff, she has a few tips for running a better business.
Williams believes that when it comes to equity, “if it’s not on paper, it’s not getting done.” Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives only happen when they’re intentionally planned. Saying you value equity and actually creating equity-focused initiatives are two very different things.
“There has to be training, there has to be programs. There has to be knowledge passed on,” Williams said. Without these educational opportunities, people won’t have a chance to grow. Williams continued, “Everyone has biases, whether you’re majority or minority – we all have biases. And we need to break through those, so that when we can make a change, we make a difference.” For Williams, a high valuation of equity and thoughtful self-reflection directly influence organisational impact.
After decades on the tennis court, Williams has a lot of experience with both winning and losing. When Turner asked whether she anticipates winning when she goes onto the court, Williams said that “part of winning doesn’t always mean you feel like you’re going to win. But it’s about how you approach it and the attitude you bring to it…It’s all about the rhetoric that you tell yourself. If you say something long enough, you’ll start to believe it.”
Though she admitted to not always believing she’d win a match, Williams returned to the power of the mind in personal and professional success. Williams shared how winning in life involves a healthy dose of discipline and competitiveness, even if those are skills you don’t have yet.
“In some areas, you also need help to be disciplined. And certain things where you know you have a weakness, if you can build a community around that, then you’re not alone. And you have accountability partners and fellows,” Williams said. “The first skill you need is that heart to give it your all and to bust through any wall and to not be afraid. And to have that energy about you just to do it, just to go.”
Williams encourage the INSIGHTS 2022 audience to build discipline and competitiveness into their work and home life.
Turner posed another question to Williams, asking how she makes decisions under pressure, to which Williams acknowledged the power of having a process. When she’s on the court, she has a a routine she follows to put a lot of intention into exactly what she’ll do. “And it’s really the same in business. We don’t want to just think it’s going to happen. We have to have those processes in place,” Williams shared in relation to business success.
But processes can only get you so far. Williams said that she’s constantly reflecting on how she can be better. And sometimes, you face defeat in business and in life: “You want to succeed to bad that you don’t actually even use the process that works. You just ball up. And you have to let go of the fear and trust the process. And, God, if you lose doing that process, then let me lose doing the right thing. And if I lose doing the right thing, then, you know what, I’m just going to get better at doing the right thing.”
Turner and Williams ended their time on stage talking about the future of female leadership. Williams stated, “I believe in the power of the feminine.” Williams went on to describe how she believes women can live into their femininity in the workplace.
Williams continued, “There are so many more women leaders at the top…All of us women are breaking down those barriers and opening the doors. It’s so awesome to see that and then to mentor that next generation. And women have to be a part of mentoring the next generation and opening those doors, too.”