Although you probably do not know who Lilly Ledbetter is (I didn’t know until this past week), you should thank her.
For the last ten years of her life, Ledbetter has fought for equal pay rights in the work place for women. After experiencing pay-based discrimination because of her sex (and learning about it through anonymous letters in her work mailbox), Ledbetter filed a complaint of gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Making a long story short (however, you should read the whole story over at CNN), President Obama stepped in and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Restoration Act this past week making the fight for women’s rights and equality better upheld through the law.
While I feel gratitude for Ledbetter’s ongoing battle with the Supreme Court and Congress to pass this act that will give women the rights they warrant and money that is rightfully theirs, I know that work is still left to be done.
It may seem hard to believe, but to this day, full-time working women get paid “on average, only 77 cents for each dollar full-time working men get paid,” according to the Wage Project. This happens in every occupation across the nation, and while it impacts women in different ways, the reality of it is that hardworking women with outstanding college degrees lose money in their pockets simply because of their sex.
Think about it. Imagine working at the same place, doing the same job as a man (who has the same degree and amount of experience as you), putting in the same hours, only to find out he is, in fact, making more money than you on an annual basis. How is that fair? It’s not, at all.
But it is reality.
Amazing women across the nation have been fighting for women’s rights for equal pay for decades now. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act (EPA) was signed by John F. Kennedy in hopes to help stop the divide within the work place. While it drew attention to issues involving work discrimination because of sex, it did not necessarily revolutionize the issue over night. Nearly 50 years ago, when the EPA was signed, women were only making 55 cents to the male dollar. In the last four and a half decades, only 22 more cents have gone into making up for those earnings.
As a young woman about to enter the workplace after college, I am outraged to know that I won’t make what my fellow male peers will. However, while it is scary to know that such discrimination still exists, I do feel some relief knowing that laws are out there to protect us, and a President looking out for us, too.