Serena Williams is closing out 2016 by offering an inspirational message to female athletes, a message she delivered with all the power that marks her game.
Williams, writing in Porter Magazine’s Incredible Women of 2016 issue, revisited the barriers of race and gender that she has faced throughout her long career. “I learned not to be afraid. I learned how important it is to fight for a dream and, most importantly, to dream big,” she writes. “My fight began when I was three and I haven’t taken a break since.”
As many advancements as women athletes have made, there are still barriers of equal pay and equal support, among others. Williams says she is frustrated by the issue of equal pay 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.”
Williams addresses the letter (which can be seen in full here) “to all incredible women who strive for excellence” and concludes:
As we know, women have to break down many barriers on the road to success. One of those barriers is the way we are constantly reminded we are not men, as if it is a flaw. People call me one of the “world’s greatest female athletes.” Do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger? 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.
For everything I’ve achieved in my life, I am profoundly grateful to have experienced the highs and lows that come with success. It is my hope that my story, and yours, will inspire all young women out there to push for greatness and follow their dreams with steadfast resilience. 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.
Now 35, Williams is thinking of “the next generation” even as she continues to dominate her sport. Although her 2016 season was disappointing by her standards, she did reach the finals of three Grand Slam events, winning Wimbledon. She lost in a U.S. Open semifinal.