NATIONAL WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH – AN OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK AT PAY EQUITY
National Women’s History Month is traditionally celebrated in March. President Jimmy Carter was the first President to mark a week for women’s history and President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a month, simply because it was realized that the accomplishments of American women couldn’t possibly all be celebrated and appreciated in a single week.
Every year, the National Women’s History Project chooses a theme for the month. This year’s theme is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business” which honors women who have successfully challenged the role of women in both business and the paid labor force. Women throughout history have fought to make the workplace a less hostile environment for women and they have succeeded in expanding women’s participation in commerce and their power in the paid labor force. Most importantly, the 2017 Honorees have paved the way for generations of women labor and business leaders to follow.
As we celebrate National Women’s History Month, the question of pay equity still looms large as a major concern for women still seeking a chance at greater economic parity with their male counterparts. One of those women being honored this month includes Lilly Ledbetter, Equal Pay Activist. Ms. Ledbetter took her case of employment discrimination all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1979, Ms. Ledbetter began work at a local Goodyear tire factory. She was the only woman working on the factory floor and faced daily sexual harassment. Despite this, she worked hard and hoped that it would eventually get better. In 1998, after 19 years with Goodyear, Ledbetter received an anonymous note informing her that she was paid significantly less than men doing the same job. In response, she filed a sex discrimination case against her longtime employer. She won her case but Goodyear appealed and her win was reversed because she would have had to file her complaint within 180 days after receiving her first discriminatory paycheck. Justice Ginsberg urged her to keep fighting, which she did. In August 2008 she spoke about pay equity at the Democratic National Convention. On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law which loosens the time restrictions on filing discrimination cases, allowing the 180 day clock to reset every time an individual experiences an act of discrimination.
Let’s continue to urge women and minorities to fight for their civil rights.