On Sunday, September 22, Michelle Williams won the Emmy for her performance of Gwen Verdon in the FX drama miniseries Fosse/Verdon. And once onstage to give her acceptance speech, she dedicated her time to a very important cause: equal pay.
“Thank you so much to the television academy for this and to the incredible cast and crew who have worked so hard to make this TV show, especially you, Sam Rockwell. I know how hard you worked,” she began. “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 then explained that every time she asked for anything she needed in order to do her job—big or small—she heard “yes” in reply. “When I asked for more dance classes, I heard yes,” she said. “More voice lessons, yes. A different wig, a pair of fake teeth not made out of rubber, yes.”
She continued, “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.”
More important, they didn’t just support her with props and lessons. They supported her with equal pay.
“And so I want to say, thank you so much to FX and to Fox 21 studios for supporting me completely and for paying me equally because 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 into their work,” she said. “And so 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 counterpart—tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her. Believe her. 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.”
She finished the speech with a shoutout to her daughter. “Matilda, this is for you, like everything else.”
Fans quickly took to social media to share their praise for Williams’s speech.
“That Michelle Williams speech belongs on a plaque,” one tweeted. “Michelle Williams thank you for acknowledging that there is a far greater wage gap for women of color than literally everyone else including white women,” another noted.
Celebrities including Kerry Washington and Debra Messing also took to Twitter to celebrate Williams.
Fans also called out how supportive Williams’s best friend, Busy Phillips, was during the speech:
Backstage, Williams spoke out more about equal pay. “I’d know from the inside how difficult it was to feel like you were ever really getting ahead. And no matter how many accolades [I got], I couldn’t make it translate into long-term security, so the discrepancy with All the Money in the World illustrated not just a larger point for me, a woman of privilege, but how difficult it is for women of all [backgrounds],” she told press. “When you look at all numbers, 52% on the dollar is what a Hispanic woman will make compared to a white male.”
For the record, Williams is spot-on with her speech. August 21 marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the point in the year when the average black woman’s wages finally equal what a white man earned the year before. It’s time we all start talking more about pay disparity—on the Emmys stage and off.