Venus Williams talks to PEOPLE about the effects of the COVID pandemic, specifically gender pay inequality 

By Alyssa Johnson
May 03, 2021 12:52 PM
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Venus Williams
Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Venus Williams continues to be an advocate for gender equality.

Speaking with PEOPLE about her partnership with the International WELL Building Institute and its WELL Health-Safety Rating, the five-time Wimbledon champion, 40, spoke up about the unforeseen impacts the pandemic has had on working women. 

"[In the pandemic] women are taking on the brunt of responsibilities in the home, a lot of the time with childcare and these sorts of things," says Williams. "So a lot of them are leaving their jobs or having to reduce their work schedule because of that." 

Venus Williams Vs Zarina Diyas at the 2021Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on March 23, 2021
Credit: MediaPunch

Williams harps on just one of the many ways the pandemic has devastated so many, but especially for women and working mothers. According to the U.S Department of Labor, as cited by the Wall Street Journal, between February 2020 and March 2021, nearly 1.1 million women between the ages of 25 and 54 dropped out of the labor force, compared with 830,000 men in that age group.

"Industries that women are working in predominantly have been affected too such as hospitality so that has taken a big toll also on wages and opportunities for work for women," says Williams. "And those are just some of the ways that the pandemic has really affected women and people need to know... people need to be educated because the more that we know, the more powerful we are."

Williams is doing the work to continue to educate others as she shares that she's been spending the past few months honing in on women's equality. She has spoken up and highlighted unequal pay in sports and in the workforce this past March with a moving essay for British Vogue during Women's History Month. 

"I firmly believe that sport mirrors life and life mirrors sport," Williams wrote. "The lack of equality and equal opportunities in tennis is a symptom of the obstacles women face around the world."

Within her essay, Williams noted that in 2007, she became the first female tennis player to receive equal prize money as male players. While all players now receive equal prize money at the majors and combined events, Williams wrote there is still much progress to be made for women in sports and across all industries as she cited that "in the US, women made 82.3 cents for every dollar men made in 2019." 

The seven-time Grand Slam winner also created her own campaign to raise awareness about this issue with the "#PrivilegeTax" movement. With this campaign, she's helped raise money for Girls Inc.,  a non profit organization with the mission to empower young women and girls. 

Williams also has been a continuous proponent for women's health and wellbeing with her activewear company EleVen, and has used her company's platform to highlight the voices of women within and outside of the company to keep important conversations around women's equality going.

"Every day is equal pay day. Let's fill in the gap for future generations in the workplace. Let's do this," Williams wrote on Instagram.