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Michelle Williams Calls Out Pay Inequality in Emmys Speech: ‘Listen to Her, Believe Her’

Fosse/Verdon” star Michelle Williams thanked a lot of people Sunday night for her lead actress Emmy, but her biggest thanks went to the show’s network for its pay practices.

“I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted and feels safe enough to voice her needs and respected enough to be heard … 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. “Thank you so much to FX and Fox 21 studios for supporting me and 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. Where do they put that value? They put it into their work.”

Williams went on to make an impassioned plea for pay equity across the entertainment industry, calling for female employees to be paid a fare and equal wage.

“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, 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’ speech comes on the heels of last week’s #NotWorthLess movement, which saw women writers, producers and assistants across Twitter share their own stories of pay inequality in the entertainment business. Screenwriter Adele Lim sparked the movement after she left the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel in protest of being paid less than her male co-writer.

Backstage, Williams continued the discussion with the media by saying she had always known how difficult it could be to “feel like you were getting ahead,” noting that “no matter how many accolades I’d amassed, I couldn’t make that translate into retirement money.” She said she was woken up and felt like it illustrated a larger point because if it was difficult for her, a self-admitted “white woman of privilege” in a  she knew how much harder it would be for others, especially in other industries.

Williams said tonight might seem like a “fairytale ending for me and my own personal story,” but she admitted “there really won’t be any satisfaction for me until the larger message is heard, and that’s what I wanted to point out tonight.” Her overall message, she reiterated was to look at the numbers and realize that “52 [cents] on the dollar is what a hispanic woman will make compared to a male. The numbers aren’t out yet for Native women but they expect them to be worse.”

Williams won the lead limited series/TV movie actress Emmy for her take on the real-life titular choreographer Gwen Verdon in FX’s dance biopic “Fosse/Verdon.” This was her first-ever Emmy nomination.

The actress was up against Amy Adams (“Sharp Objects”), Patricia Arquette (“Escape at Dannemora”), Joey King (“The Act”) and both Aunjanue Ellis and Niecy Nash from “When They See Us.”

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