Yesterday, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, thereby correcting a Roberts Supreme Court miscarriage of justice, as well as last year’s GOP Senate filibuster that prevented earlier passage of the Act.
Following the bill signing, Ms. Ledbetter was the guest of honor at a White House luncheon hosted by the First Lady. The warmth and shared respect between these two women is obvious from the video, and Ms. Ledbetter’s remarks underscore her unshakable resolve to fight a battle that many of us could not imagine sustaining over the course of ten years’ time.
Not to diminish her accomplishment in any way, it is worth noting that most of us are never able to prove wage discrimination as clearly as it was revealed to Ms. Ledbetter. I’ve quit jobs because I’ve suspected pay inequity, been the victim of sexual harassment and/or been expected to perform tasks that my male peers would never be asked or expected to perform. I’m willing to bet that every single working woman I know has had similar experiences, and yet, I don’t personally know anyone who has filed a formal EEOC complaint.
In looking back over my long work career, it’s notable that there have been only two jobs where I felt I was treated fairly and equally as an employee. The first was a union position. The second was as part of an all-female staff in a small retail establishment.
Still think wage discrimination based on sex is a thing of the past? This study by the Economic Policy Institute released in May, 2008, shows that even among recent college graduates entering the job market, an hourly pay gap of $2.92 exists between men and women.
So, thank you, Ms. Ledbetter, for your persistence, your courage and the personal economic sacrifice you have made to bring all of us closer to equality. Lilly, we owe you big time.