Venus Williams says gender pay-gap reality was a slap in the face

Venus Williams shouting

Venus Williams say the realisation she had as a young professional, that women in tennis are paid significantly less than men came as a slap in the face to her.

Williams spent much of her career crusading for equal pay for women in tennis and sport.

She was the first woman to receive prize money equal to the men’s singles winner at the Championships Wimbledon in 2007.

“Getting there and realizing, ‘Wow, I’m not being paid equally,’ was just definitely a slap in the face to a 16-year-old. … It hit me hard,” Venus Williams told Variety.

“Two short years later, after 30-plus years of fighting for equal prize money, we finally arrived. It was a wonderful moment.”

Williams is hopeful for the future of women in sport but believes there is still a lot of work to do before equality can truly be claimed.

“It wasn’t until the ’60s that a woman first ran a marathon, and she had to pretend to be a guy,” she said.

Venus Williams adds: “We been fighting thousands of years of inequity, so we can’t think that [change] is going to happen overnight. We want it to, and we work at a pace so that it could be, theoretically, but it’s about changing minds, changing cultures, changing history, and it’s about not giving up.

“At least in the United States you can have the conversation. Outside of the United States, it’s very difficult to have these conversations.”

Williams revealed that her mother’s has helped her stand up for the things she believes in on and off the court.

“My mom was an inspiration,” says Williams. “She’s a wonderful, fun lady, strong lady, good tennis player and a great cook. She’s also very spiritually strong, so it gave us an opportunity to have belief and hope and to be calm and not be stressed about the regular worries of the day.”

Neither of the Williams sisters have officially called time on their tennis careers and both have hinted that they will return to the court as professionals.

Venus Williams last turned out at Wimbledon in 2021 where she suffered a second round loss to rising Tunisian star Ons Jabeur.