The Inspiring Story of How Venus Williams Helped Win Equal Pay for Females at Wimbledon

Until 2007, women champions at Wimbledon won a smaller cash prize than the male champions. However with determination and constant advocacy from Venus Williams, she has fought and help win the prolonged battle for female athletes everywhere.

Their names are synonymous with speed, power and a humble approach to stardom: Venus and Serena Williams. The sisters have always spurred each other to the heights of success with a combination of fierce competitiveness and mutual encouragement. Known as two of the most competitive and fiery players in the tournament, it’s their work off the court that makes them stand out from the rest.

Yet, what sets Venus Williams apart from Serena is her persistent advocacy for women — specifically, on the issue of equal prize money for equal merit, a still-contentious topic in many sports.

According to ESPN, Williams made her first public mention of the need for Grand Slam events to award equal prize money to men and women back in 1998, after a first round win at Wimbledon. At the time, the US Open was the only Grand Slam tournament that awarded equal prize money, thanks to the courageous efforts of Billie Jean King.

In 2o06, the CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Larry Scott, asked Venus Williams if she would be willing to play a central role in aggressively pursuing equal pay, a mission she embraced. In an op-ed published in the London Times, Williams argued that:

“[Wimbledon’s prize structure] devalues the principle of meritocracy and diminishes the years of hard work that women on the tour have put into becoming professional tennis players. The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling. My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message.”

Her piece generated enough attention from British politicians that it was brought up during a question-and-answer session in Parliament, prompting Prime Minister Tony Blair to endorse equal pay in his response.

Finally, in 2007 William’s efforts paid off. A statement from Tim Phillips, chairman of the All England Club read,“This year, taking into account both the overall progression and the fact that broader social factors are also relevant to the decision, they [the Committee] have decided that the time is right to bring this subject to a logical conclusion and eliminate the difference.”

Venus then responded with her own statement after hearing the incredible news:

“The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height today. I applaud today’s decision by Wimbledon, which recognizes the value of women’s tennis.”

This victory that Venus Williams won off the court helped achieve an enduring victory for women players at the iconic tournament, as well as, by extension, for all women in the fight for equal pay.

WATCH: Director Ava DuVerny talking about her film of the film Venus VS. (2013) – 

Diahann x

Take Note: Women’s Sport Is a Seriously Untapped Market

The myth that there is no interest in women’s sport is crumbling fast in the wake of the Matilda’s World Cup run as well as the Diamond’s epic Netball World Cup win.

They are the talk of the town, and rightly so – the Matildas magnificent win over Brazil in the FIFA Women’s World Cup was Australia’s first ever win in the knockout stage of either the men’s or women’s global competition. Now that is an accomplishment to be proud of as fellow Australians.

Also, just a day earlier, the trans-Tasman netball championship final wowed TV audiences as the QLD Firebirds scored five straight goals in the final minutes to snatch a 57-56 win over the NSW Swifts in Brisbane.

During these epic wins, the internal metrics measuring statistics on stories at ABC News Online told its own story with audiences furiously clicking on women’s sports stories, and the appetite for them looks a long way from being satisfied.

In regards to success, ABC Grandstand’s article for the Matildas’ win over Brazil was the most popular for June 22, exceeding Jordan Spieth’s US open win and a host of ABC’s usual political stories. Similarly, the netball grand final caused lots of interest on social media, with the hashtag “Firebirds” trending nationally on twitter in Australia.

More and more, this ultimately is disproving the old myth that women’s team sports is inferior and less interesting than that of their male counterparts, as a result, proving that there does exist a significantly greater demand for greater media coverage of the women’s game. The illusion that there is no inherent interest in women’s sport is crumbling fast with questions of both the quality of play and the sport’s overall product are rapidly being answered.

In a way, the fact that many of these sportswomen have to balance their incredible on-field abilities with either full-time occupations or study shows that they are well-rounded, relatable individuals who must truly cherish the adoration and support they receive from the crowd.

What cannot be argued any longer, however, is that the quality of women’s sport still has some way to catch up to men. Yes, men will for the most part be taller, stronger and quicker than women in overall benchmarks, but if this were the only indicator and measurement for quality in all sport, there would never have been a market for women’s tennis, surfing or pretty much any Olympic event. Women’s sport may be physically different to that of the men’s, but it is essentially no less strategic or passionate.

Overall, playing and watching sport is meant for everyone. The joys and despairs felt watching our top sportsmen and women has been widespread, crossing the gender divide.

Now it’s time for the media to start putting the foundations in place for the eventual equality in news representation of women’s sport. It really is about time.

Diahann x