Equal Pay Day: Lessons Learned from Serena, Taraji, Rihanna and Michelle

2019 has been the year of the black woman.

From holding seats in elected positions in record numbers specifically in Houston. Black women are simply goals, in my biased opinion. We can do it all but in our triumph there’s an ugly cloud of unequal pay that follows us throughout our careers. Maybe the system is to blame for normalizing the pay inequity or perhaps we should take accountability for not negotiating more aggressively on our own behalf. Check out my past post on Equal Pay. No matter who carries the blame, Equal Pay Day for black women is August 22nd (day 221? Of 365). Black women are earning $.61 for every $1 earned by a male counterpart

 When I let this simmer, it is sickening. Even more, the normalcy of it is stifling. A few months ago, in my own place of work I was stripped of my executive title (which is now my supervisor’s title) and I later learned that with him in the usurped role that he makes double what I was earning in the exact same position. It’s just disgusting for all parties involved. Sadly, I am not alone. 

Unequal pay for women of color transcends occupation, education and experience.

To remedy this piss poor behavior, we need to collectively draw attention to the issue and seek out allies that are change agents that doesn’t necessarily look like us. It’s a long and arduous fight, but it’s worth it for our daughters, young sisters and nieces.  

Here are four lessons learned about equal pay for black women from Serena Williams, Taraji P. Henson, Rihanna and Michelle Obama.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams is arguably one of the best athletes on the planet. Her trophy shelf is probably the size of my condo but despite her numerous accolades, as a black woman she still struggles with pay equity. At one point, Serena beat Maria Sharapova 18 times in a row. Where I’m from we call that a beat down. However, despite the fact that Serena has earned over 20 Grand Slam titles and other awards, she has a reported net worth of $225M from prize money and endorsements. while Maria Sharapova (who’s good but is no Serena) has a net worth of $300M. 

Taraji P. Henson

Most people don’t know that Taraji P. Henson launched her acting career as a single mother. Her career came with much sacrifice but she has learned to ask for what she’s worth and be comfortable walking away from supposed opportunities that don’t align with your actual value. Early on in her career she was offered the supporting role of Queenie, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The movie earned $334M at box office with a budget of $150M. The lead actors of the movie, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchet earned millions for their role (Cate Blanchett earned significantly less than Brad Pitt of course) but Taraji earned a mere low six figures AND was required to cover her own lodging cost while filming for three months. Accepting the role and chalking up the experience as a lesson learned, gave Taraji the confidence to ask for more money for her films. Executive Producer extraordinaire, Tyler Perry, also served as an ally to help her determine her rate. 


Rihanna is a woman that unapologetically goes after what she wants.  When it comes to her coins, Rihanna doesn’t play. She even wrote a song about it. Rihanna Fenty, the 31-year-old songster, turn business maven, with a net worth of $600 million and growing according to Forbes. Her high earning potential isn’t by happenstance. It is due to her strategic positioning in business opportunities where she can pursue her passions and bless the world through her talents. She was recently dubbed as the wealthiest female musician in the world, Craig. Due to her strategic positioning in business opportunities and savvy negotiating she collects all of her coins. Rihanna has her fingerprint on everything from music, to makeup to fashion with collaborations with brands like Louis Vuitton, Puma, Balmain and River Island.  

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, our forever First Lady, is more than just Barack Obama’s wife. Prior to Barack becoming President Obama, Michelle had a burgeoning law career.  By knowing who you are and what you bring to the table you can unabashedly ask for what you want without any qualms. Michelle once brought her four-month-old daughter Sasha to a job interview because she couldn’t find a sitter. When offered the job she requested days to work from home in order to spend more time with her family. While both of those ideas sound outlandish (bringing a kid to an interview and working from home) she knew that she was the right candidate for the job and the return on investment to the company. Needless to say, she landed that position as Vice President at Chicago-based hospital but eventually got an even bigger promotion as First Lady of the United States.  

How are you raising awareness around Black Women’s Equal Pay Day?


Love + Light