April is the month every year when the paychecks of women working full-time, year-round catch up with what men earned by the previous December 31. This year Equal Pay Day falls on April 17.
There are a number of causes for the pay gap, including job segregation (so-called “men’s jobs” pay more than “women’s jobs”) and the fact that working moms are often seen as less serious or less reliable, despite solid evidence to the contrary.
But plain old sex discrimination plays a big part. Lilly Ledbetter found out the hard way after 19 years at Goodyear, when shelearned she had been underpaid all along compared to men doing the same job. She sued–and won in lower courts. But the Supreme Court overturned 40 years of precedent when it ruled against her in the now-infamous Ledbetter v. Goodyear case, saying she should have complained earlier–even though she didn’t know about the discrimination.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restoring the previous standard (a victim has 180 days to complain beginning when she learns about the discrimination) was the first law President Obama signed. Ledbetter’s new book Grace and Grit: My Fight For Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond chronicles her struggle and the aftermath. I interviewed her this month for my radio show Equal Time With Martha Burk.
To read the interview, click through the link. I had the privilege of meeting her at the Sewall-Belmont Museum’s Q&A and booksigning event a few weeks back. What an inspiring woman!