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Michelle Williams’s Emmys speech calls out workplace inequality for women of color

“I see this as an acknowledgment of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they’ll be heard.”

Michelle Williams’s Emmys speech calls out workplace inequality for women of color
Michelle Williams accepts the outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie award for Fosse/Verdon onstage during the 71st Emmy Awards. [Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

Michelle Williams got a standing ovation for her rousing Emmys speech on the workplace environment for women, particularly women of color.

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During her acceptance speech for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie for Fosse/Verdon, Williams thanked FX for creating a supportive environment.

“I see this as an acknowledgment of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they’ll be heard,” Williams said.

She said that when she asked for more dance classes, and voice lessons, or even another wig, the studio fulfilled her requests.

“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,” Williams said. “They understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value. And where do they put that value? They put it into their work.”

She also thanked her bosses for paying her equally as her co-star Sam Rockwell.

Williams advocated for equal pay on Capitol Hill back in April alongside Nancy Pelosi for the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that aims to close the pay gap for women. Williams was personally hit with a major pay disparity when it was reported that her All the Money in the World co-star Mark Wahlberg made $1.5 million for re-shoots while she made less than $1,000.

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However, that chasm is even worse for black women, as Williams so directly pointed out in her speech.

“The next time a woman, especially a woman of color—because she stands to make 52¢ on the dollar compared to her white male counterpart—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.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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