On Sunday night, Michelle Williams took home her first Emmy, winning Lead Actress in a Limited Series for her role as Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon. The actor used her time on stage to address pay inequality in Hollywood and beyond, quickly clinching the title of most inspiring moment of the night.
Thanking her co-star Sam Rockwell and the producing and directing team behind Fosse/Verdon, Williams said that when she spoke up on set of the dance film, her requests were quickly honoured. “I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels save enough to voice them, and respected enough that they’ll be heard,” said Williams. “When I asked for more dance classes, I heard yes. More voice lessons, yes. All these things, they required effort, and they cost more money, but my bosses never presumed to know better than I did. Because they understood when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value.”
“The next time a woman tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her.”
Williams added that not only is important for employers to listen to their staff, it’s especially imperative when working with women and people of colour, who are disproportionately paid less than their white male counterparts. “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,” Williams said. “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.”
— Jenny Yang (@jennyyangtv) September 23, 2019
Williams ended her touching and inspiring speech by dedicating it it to her daughter Matilda, whom she shares with the late Heath Ledger. The actor was joined on the red carpet by best friend Busy Philipps, who was a supportive emotional BFF and a perfect at-home audience proxy.
— Who What Wear (@WhoWhatWear) September 23, 2019
Williams’ speech received a standing ovation in the room, not to mention an outpouring of online support, and seemed to also address her 2017 pay scandal for the film All The Money In The World. The film was famously reshot in only a few days without lead actor Kevin Spacey after Spacey was accused of sexual assault. It was during the reshoots that USA Today uncovered the pay discrepancy between Williams and co-star Mark Wahlberg, with Wahlberg making 1,500 times more than Williams for the same time spent on set and which thrust Williams into the centre of the pay inequality debate.
Luckily, she knew just what to do with that platform.