Fair-Pay Activist Ledbetter Comes to Mount Holyoke

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On Jan. 29, 2009, nine days after he was inaugurated for his first term, Barack Obama signed off on the first new law of his presidency: the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which made it easier for American workers to pursue unequal pay complaints.

“It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act—we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness,” Obama said at the signing ceremony, adding that his own grandmother had repeatedly hit the glass ceiling at the bank where she worked most of her life.

Among the beaming people standing before Obama that day was then-70-year-old Ledbetter, who’d been fighting her own equal pay battle for more than a decade. In 1998, after 19 years, Ledbetter had retired from her job as a manager at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Alabama; shortly after, she sued the company for paying her less than her male counterparts. While she initially won her case, filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that decision was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled that Ledbetter had not filed her suit before the statute of limitations had expired.

The court decision galvanized feminist and workers’ rights groups, as well as House Democrats, who pushed to change the law. The bill signed by Obama altered the statute of limitations for filing equal pay lawsuits; instead of having to file within 180 of the first affected paycheck, workers now have up to 180 days after their most recent paycheck.

In the years since, Ledbetter has continued her work as an activist for workplace equality. On Tues., Feb. 26, she’ll talk about her work at a free public lecture at Mount Holyoke College. The talk will take place at 7 p.m. in Chapin Auditorium, at the college’s Mary Woolley Hall, and will be followed by a panel discussion with several lawyers and scholars involved in the fight for fair pay.•

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No law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap -, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not the 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act, not the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.... Nor will a "paycheck fairness" law work.

That's because women's pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

Despite the 40-year-old demand for women's equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier....” at If indeed a higher percentage of women is staying at home, perhaps it's because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they're going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Answer: Because they're supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home. (Far more wives are supported by a spouse than are husbands.)

The implication of this is probably obvious to most 12-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to or is ignored by feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands' incomes vary, are more often able than husbands to:

-accept low wages

-refuse overtime and promotions

-choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do

-take more unpaid days off

-avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (

-work part-time instead of full-time (“In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” These are some of the most sophisticated, educated women in the country CHOOSING to earn less than their male counterparts in the exact same profession.

Any one of these job choices lowers women's median pay relative to men's. And when a wife makes one of the choices, her husband often must take up the slack.

Women are able to make these choices because they are supported — or, if unmarried, anticipate being supported — by a husband who must earn more than if he'd chosen never to marry. (Still, even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they tend more than women to pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well.

Much more in "Will the Ledbetter Act Help Women?" at

Posted by Male Matters on 2.12.13 at 13:41



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