Lilly Ledbetter to share her story of overcoming the pay gap

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We are in the midst of Herstory Month, and activist Lilly Ledbetter is kicking off a slew of events hosted by the gender and women’s studies department on Wednesday.

Herstory Month is an opportunity for the campus to celebrate the achievements of women and honor them, said Shira Brown, director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center.

“Ledbetter’s story is really important and so historic because it changed how we view the pay gap and legislation around it,” Brown said.

While the event will include a speech and Q&A;, Ledbetter said her message to students will be concise.

“I hope they understand that when they leave and get a job they need to make sure they start out with what they are entitled to,” she said. “If you start off behind, you’ll never catch up.”

Gaining notoriety after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was named after her, she now tours the world speaking on behalf of the fair treatment of workers, but Ledbetter’s journey started decades before her fame.

Hired as a manager at Goodyear in 1979, Ledbetter did not learn about the large difference in pay between her and male co-workers with similar job titles and responsibilities until 1998. She eventually lost a lawsuit brought before the Supreme Court because of a law that does not allow suits to be filed 180 days after someones first paycheck, she said.

President Barack Obama took on the issue in his first piece of legislation as president. Amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act states that employees can file equal-pay lawsuits 180 day after their last paycheck.

“What I’m speaking about now has nothing to do with party (affiliation), it’s civil rights, a fundamental right that the law protects everyone,” she said.

Working two full time jobs while trying to maintain a well-rounded life, including church and school functions for her children, Ledbetter said she did not have the time or resources to discover the discrimination and now works to help others in similar situations.

“I work for all the people that are out there working,” she said. “I make sure they know what to look for to know they’re being paid fairly and help them get the legislation they need to get fair treatment.”

The legislation convinced her that Obama understands the working class and those struggling to pay their bills, and continues to motivate her to use the experience to help others.

“I haven’t got here on my own,” she said. “I was the voice (and) poster person, but a lot of people coast to coast worked on this bill – lawyers, men, non-profit groups, National Women’s Law Center, the list goes on and on. I owe them this and told the president that I viewed (the legislation) as putting a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to share the story.”

The event will take place in the Grand Salon, University Student Union at 4 p.m. and is co-sponsored by the USU, gender and women’s studies department, gender and women’s studies student association, Campus Action Project grant, Provost Hellenbrand, Civil Discourse and Social Change Initiative, and the College of Humanities.

Other Herstory Month events, as described by the Women’s Research and Resource Center:

Porn’s Glass Ceiling: An Illusionary Wage Gap
When: March 12, 11 a.m.
Where: Thousand Oaks Room, USU
Description: Jennie Ketcham is a current CSUN student who has published a memoir. “I am Jennie,” is about how she found herself in the adult film industry, drug addition, endless money and eventual recovery. Jennie will tell her story at this event, and discuss one of the major problems women confront today, finding work that pays a livable wage.

Spirituality and Social Justice
When: March 18, 4 p.m.
Where: Music Recital Hall
Description: The Civil Discourse and Social Change Initiative will host a panel discussion on spirituality and social justice, which will include representatives from each of the major religions. Located in the Music Recital Hall.

10th Annual Take Back the NightRally and March
When: March 21, 6 – 10 p.m.
Where: Plaza del Sol and Women’s Research and Resource Center
Description: Resource fair, rally, march, candlelight vigil and speak-out to end violence against women. Live performance by Natalia Zukerman. Located in the Plaza del Sol and the Women’s Research and Resource Center.

$tart $mart
When: March 25, 4 p.m.
Where: Jerome Richfield 330
Description: There is no debate that women earn approximately 82 cents to the male dollar. The question is, why? Researchers have discovered that one of the reasons is because women are not taught to be assertive and negotiate their salaries. This three-hour workshop will teach women how to be savvy negotiators. You must RSVP for this event, as space is limited. Call 818-677-2780 to RSVP. Located in Jerome Richfield 330.


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