01/08/2017 09:51 BST | Updated 01/08/2017 10:45 BST

Serena Williams Calls For Black Women To 'Be Fearless' And Fight For Equal Pay

'It took me a long time to realise it. But we are all worth it.'

Serena Williams has written a powerful open letter calling on black women to fight hard for equal pay. 

The 35-year-old tennis star said the gender pay gap “hits women of colour the hardest”, adding that for every dollar a man makes in the US, black women make 63 cents. 

In the poignant piece, published by Fortune, Williams spoke candidly of her own rise to fame and the difficulties she encountered along the way, including sexism and racism.

She finished up by asking black women to “be fearless”, “speak out for equal pay” and “know their worth”.

Michael Dodge via Getty Images

There’s no denying Williams is one of the most successful women ever, but it hasn’t been an easy ride for the tennis player.

She said growing up she was told she couldn’t accomplish her dreams because she was a woman, but more so, because she was black. 

“In every stage of my life, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out,” she wrote.

“I have been treated unfairly, I’ve been disrespected by my male colleagues and—in the most painful times—I’ve been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court.”

Most recently, retired tennis player John McEnroe suggested that although Williams is the “best female player ever ― no question”, she would struggle playing against men. He said: “If she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.”

His comments prompted a major backlash which led to other tennis players - Andy Murray included - jumping to Williams’ defence. 

Williams credited her inner drive and supportive family for her successes, but added that the “injustices still hurt”.

The 35-year-old called on women to work together “to change the story”, adding that “we deserve equal pay for our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our nieces, friends, and colleagues—but mostly, for ourselves”.

She concluded: “Black women: Be fearless. Speak out for equal pay. Every time you do, you’re making it a little easier for a woman behind you.

“Most of all, know that you’re worth it. It can take a long time to realise that. It took me a long time to realise it. But we are all worth it. I’ve long said, ‘You have to believe in yourself when no one else does’. Let’s get back those 37 cents.”