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Michelle Williams addresses pay disparity in her powerful Emmy speech

Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

Michelle Williams just won her first Emmy (as Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie) for personifying Gwen Verdon in the FX mini-series Fosse/Verdon. It’s an astonishing performance, as Williams completely inhabits the part of the Broadway legend, whose career unfairly took a back set to her (eventually) more famous husband Bob Fosse (played by Sam Rockwell).

In her acceptance speech, Williams addressed that inequality, as well as disparities that still exist in the entertainment industry (and elsewhere) today. For example, she was famously paid less than her co-star Mark Wahlberg for the film All The Money; after it was revealed that Wahlberg got a bonus for film reshoots, whereas Williams did not, it was discovered that his salary was about 10 times what hers was.

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In her speech, Williams acknowledges her Fosse/Verdon producers for listening to her when she said she needed more dance classes or voice lessons: “My bosses never presumed to know better than I did about what I needed to do my job.” She also praises them for paying her “equally,” which immediately got a round of applause, “because that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person.” She went on to highlight the considerable pay discrepancy between white men and women of color:

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 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.

There were some other rousing speeches tonight, but Williams’ so far is among the most empowering. She closed by saying to her daughter, “Matilda, this is for you, like everything else,” making us all weep uncontrollably like Williams’ BFF Busy Philipps in the audience.

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Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.