“The next time a woman — and especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterparts — tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her,” Williams said. “Because one day, she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it."
Williams took home the “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie” Emmy for her portrayal of Broadway actor and dancer Gwen Verdon in FX’s “Fosse/Verdon.” Escorted to the stage by the show’s executive producer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the often private four-time Oscar nominee unfurled a powerful message that was punctuated by cheers from the audience.
“I see this as an acknowledgment of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feel safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they’ll be heard,” Williams said with her award in hand. “When I asked for more dance classes, I heard yes; more voice lessons, yes; a different wig, a pair of fake teeth not made out of rubber, yes. And all of these things, they require effort and they cost more money, but my bosses never presumed to know better than I did about what I needed in order to do my job and honor Gwen Verdon."
She went on to thank FX and Fox 21 Studios “for supporting me completely and for paying me equally.”
“They understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value. And then, where do they put that value? They put it in their work.”
In 2017, Williams found herself the face of Hollywood’s gender pay inequality problem.
As Williams was prepped for the release of her latest film at the time, Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World,” several men stepped forward to accuse her co-star, Kevin Spacey, of sexual misconduct. Spacey was ultimately replaced by actor Christopher Plummer, which meant co-stars like Williams had to return to reshoot scenes before the film could wrap.
But then came the bombshell: USA Today reported that Williams was paid a per diem of $80 — roughly the union minimum rate — for the 10 days of work. Mark Wahlberg, meanwhile, received an additional $1.5 million, of which Williams was never told.
Speaking to Vanity Fair the following year, Williams recalled that the revelation she was receiving 1 percent of her male co-star’s salary left her feeling “totally devalued.” She added that she hoped “a private humiliation” might become “a public turning point.”
According to the latest data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women in full-time, year-round jobs earn just under 82 cents on the dollar compared to white men. When broken down by race, however, the figures are especially grim for black and Latinx women, who earn 62 and 55 percent, respectively, of what white men earn.