Lilly Ledbetter, a women’s equality activist whom the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was named after, told a packed Plachta Auditorium yesterday night at Central Michigan University that the fight for equality is not over!
Ledbetter opened her mouth and out came a thick southern drawl in which she admitted everywhere she went, the accent followed. The quicker you got used to it, the quicker you were going to hear her story.
In early 1998, Ledbetter said she began a long journey that changed her life completely.
Upon finding out that she was being paid far less than men with the same qualifications and job title as her, she filed a lawsuit against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., her employer at the time, which lasted 9 years.
After years of trials and appeals, Ledbetter lost the fight because of a technicality in the law, stating that you must file suit within 180 days of your first paycheck.
According to Ledbetter, defense attorneys claimed that women would come out of the woodworks to get some easy money if they let the case go forward.
She explained how ridiculous this statement was because all she ever really wanted to do was retire and enjoy the fruits of her labor.
Being in court for 9 years was not necessarily something she would have ever imagined for her life, she said. In addition, having people treat you bad wasn’t easy either.
Although she had lost in court, Ledbetter did not give up. As soon as the news networks began calling, she let them right inside her house knowing that she had nothing to be embarrassed about.
The news broadcasts by NBC and other networks caused a national outcry and eventually led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gives women a better opportunity to receive equal pay.
When asked if she would do it all again, she said without hesitation, “absolutely!” Ledbetter claimed that, “she would never give them (Goodyear) the satisfaction of [her] giving up.”
She made it a point that the gender pay gap does not only affect women, but it hurts families as well. This is especially true today with double income households being the norm.
She explained that the time to do something about it is now because although women’s pay has improved, it is not improving quickly enough as we are still at $0.77 to the mens dollar.
“If you don’t get the equal pay when you start, you can never catch up… do the math,” she announced.
Lilly Ledbetter mentioned her book, Grace and Grit, published February 28, 2012, in which she explains the struggles she encountered while fighting for equal pay and women’s equality.
Overall, Lilly claimed “it’s not so much what happens to us, but how we react to it.”