Earlier today, Time published its Time Firsts series, a collection of portraits and interviews of groundbreaking women who were the first to achieve something big. Among the subjects: Shonda Rhimes, “first woman to create three hit shows with more than 100 episodes each,” Serena Williams, the “first tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the open era,” Alice Waters, the“first woman to win the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef,” and Mae Jemison, the “first woman of color in space.”
The magazine also did an interview with Oprah (“First woman to own and produce her own talk show”), in which she discussed the early days of her talk show. And, wouldn’t you know it, even Oprah’s show had a sexist pay problem.
While she herself was making good money, her producers, mostly women, were languishing. She explains:
I went to my boss at the time and I said, ‘Everybody needs a raise.’ And he said, ‘Why?’ He actually said to me, ‘They’re only girls. They’re a bunch of girls. What do they need more money for?’ I go, ‘Well, either they’re gonna get raises, or I’m gonna sit down. I will not work unless they get paid.’ And so they did.
That’s Oprah for ya.
Despite making progress in general since then, equal pay unfortunately remains the subject of debate instead of a reality, but Oprah’s testimony is certainly a good reminder of how those who have more power can help pull their peers up.