I’ve always been passionate about sports. It’s what led to our launch of Tory Sport in 2015. I grew up playing tennis with my three brothers. My mother, Reva, taught us how to play and instilled in us the determination to be better, to challenge ourselves, to be ambitious, and to always take our game (on and off the court) to the next level.
To this day, I am blessed to have my mom’s support and endless encouragement (“eye on the ball!”), but not everyone has these same opportunities. Many women have fought incredibly hard for the right to pick up a racquet, take the field or cross a finish line.
I recently saw BATTLE OF THE SEXES, a film about tennis icon, Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone) and her historic match with Bobby Riggs in 1973. More than 90 million viewers around the world – one of the most watched sports events of all time – saw Billie Jean beat Bobby. When she won, we all won as conversations about women’s equality ignited around the world. I highly recommend everyone see BATTLE OF THE SEXES! It is inspiring and historic.
Astoundingly, since 1973 not nearly enough has changed. One of the things the film highlights is Billie Jean’s fight for pay equity on the tennis circuit. Today, across all industries, women still do not have pay equality, especially women of color. I believe that business should not wait for the government to lead on this issue and that we should take the necessary steps to eradicate the wage gap. I recently wrote an Op-Ed for TIME on equal pay. It follows. I hope you will consider what role you will play in empowering women and evening the playing field.
When I was fundraising for my company 15 years ago, I was told to never say the words “social responsibility” and “business” in the same sentence. Thankfully, in the ensuing years, corporate foundations and social responsibility have become a given for innovative companies. But astoundingly, 54 years after the United States passed the Equal Pay Act, women still do not have pay parity with men, especially women of color.
Recently, the current U.S. Administration halted the equal pay data collection rule, which aimed to help close the wage gap by having large companies report what they pay employees by race and gender. The White House argued that this would put too large a burden on businesses. Whether you agree or not, it’s clear something must be done, and we should not wait for the government to take the lead. The private sector has a fundamental responsibility to address this issue. We can, and should, look at our pay structures and ensure that they are equitable for all people.
Equal pay is a human right; it should be a given, not a favor. This should be reason enough to make it happen, but equal pay is also good business. Countless studies have shown that equal pay for women would add billions of dollars to the American economy. Studies have also proven that companies that have women in leadership positions outperform those that do not; and equal pay could cut poverty rates in half, helping the most vulnerable.
Every business needs to take a hard look at their compensation levels and, if there are wage discrepancies, take action. We also need to get more women into executive positions. Be aware of how cultural differences also play into the disparity. Women are less likely to ask for promotions or raises, which must be taken into account so that compensation levels do not become even more skewed in favor of men.
Additionally, we must acknowledge — and shatter — the antiquated stereotypes that impact women’s equality. Let’s start with the stereotype that feminists hate men. We don’t. We detest inequality. Equality makes the world a better place — for men and women.
Women also need to challenge the behaviors in themselves that have contributed to holding them back. This year, our Foundation launched a global campaign encouraging women to Embrace Ambition. To this day, ambition is often celebrated in a man and disdained in a woman. As a result, many women go to great lengths to hide theirs. Women must be able to express their ambition and not be judged as aggressive or “not team players.”
In short, it’s going to take hard work and commitment on behalf of businesses to ensure that their employees are paid and treated equally. We cannot be complacent on this issue, because there are so many contributing factors to pay inequality that it necessitates constant reassessment. If businesses want to realize their full potential as corporate citizens, this is a necessary step forward for everyone.