Lilly Ledbetter's Grace and Grit

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill that President Barack Obama signed after he took office. Lilly Ledbetter describes the discrimination and sexual harassment she faced daily when she joined the management ranks at Goodyear and how she found out that she was being paid thousands less than her male counterparts. In her memoir, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, she also recounts her lawsuit against the company that went all the way to the Supreme Court.


Lilly Ledbetter

Comments [9]

Rob Young from Greenville, SC

It shows how shallow people are. If anyone complaining about binders ever worked in business and cared to hire qualified people they wood hire a search firm. Every search firm finalizes prospects into a binder for review.Search firms have been doing this for years, including firms run by women! Ms. Ledbetter's situation is shameful, but not binders!

Oct. 18 2012 11:20 PM

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 the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap -, 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.

That's because pay-equity advocates ignore the effects of female AND male behavior:

Millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to 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 at, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.”

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? Because they're supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home.

Feminists, government, and the media ignore what this obviously implies: If millions of wives are able to accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives are able to:

-accept low wages
-refuse overtime and promotions
-choose jobs based on interest first, pay second — men tend to do the opposite
-work part-time instead of full-time (“According to a 2009 UK study for the Centre for Policy Studies, only 12 percent of the 4,690 women surveyed wanted to work full time”: See also an Australian report at
-take more unpaid days off
-avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (


Women are able to make these choices because they are supported — or 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. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.

"Will the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Help Women?" at

Mar. 14 2012 06:20 PM

@Marco, it would seem from the interview that she was doing more than equal work.

Mar. 14 2012 04:58 PM
FranciL from NYC

A wonderful and inspiring interview. Ms. Ledbetter pursued justice even after it was clear it would not happen to her, but could clear the way for future workers. Thank you for this segment!

Mar. 13 2012 01:56 PM
Meredith from nyc

Lenny, this was one of the most fascinating and informative interviews I’ve heard on your show in decades I’ve listened—astonishing in the subject matter and the information imparted. Ledbettder’s saga shows that on many issues, this country seems to have a façade of equality, modernity, womens’ rights & worker protections, and then we see it all come tumbling down—all the progress we though we made in the 20th century. We are shocked to find, gross discrimination and backward, ignorant viewpoints that keep rearing their ugly heads again. And these viewpoints are also those of many on our esteemed Supreme Court. They will say anything to protect big business privilege. So brave souls, with the help of enlightened lawyers and judges, have to start climbing up the hill of modernity all over again.

Her main point for me was this—that the person with less pay than her peers has her whole life’s earnings affected negatively by discrimination, since her base starting pay determines what she gets later in raises, overtime, retirement and social security. The resources of the whole family into the next generation are affected, with a lower standard of living. Many women support families, either with husbands or after divorce or death of spouse. Anyway, a husband’s earnings alone can no longer ensure financial security —thanks to decades of off shoring of jobs, weaker unionization, and lowering of wages and benefits, generally.

Thanks again for this stunning interview with Ledbetter.

Mar. 13 2012 01:49 PM
antonio from bayside

Question, did Mrs. Ledbetter's experience offer a different perspective towards more progressive causes? I bring it up because of the theories like "what's a matter with kansas?" Why working class folks vote vs. their interests...

Mar. 13 2012 12:27 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The law named for Lilly Ledbetter is an improvement, but doesn't it apply only to paychecks up to 180 days before a lawsuit is filed, so there's still no remedy for discriminatory pay any earlier than that even if it's been going on for years before the discrimination is discovered? How does Ms. Ledbetter feel about that?

Mar. 13 2012 12:27 PM

Let's say you go into a store and want to buy five cans of peas. There are seven cans on the shelf. Five are of one brand marked $1.25. The other two are of a second brand marked $1.50. Assuming that in your subjective mind, both brands offer the same quality and quantity of peas that you are looking for (i.e., are equal), why would you possibly buy three of the $1.25 cans and two of the $1.50 cans when you can buy the five cans that you need for $1.25?

If "equally"-qualified women are being paid less than "equally"-qualified men, then why would the "greedy capitalist pig" employers hire any men at all? Wouldn't the employers go out of their way to hire as many cheaper women as possible? Wouldn't there be a large amount of higher-priced unemployed males out looking for work?

We have just spent the last several years listening to a great outcry about how workers from Mexico were “crowding out” American workers because they were willing to do equal work for less pay and greedy corporations were taking advantage of that fact. And don't forget all of the jobs that have been outsourced to India because of the lower cost of labor there.

By the way, how come women never complain to the government that they are being discriminated for when night clubs offer "Ladies' Night" discount drinks for them and/or even no cover charge for them to enter the clubs? I know—it's a way of making up for the lower wages they are being paid than their "equal" male counterparts!

Mar. 13 2012 12:25 PM
Marco Lalo

The built-in and perhaps mistaken assumption is that she was doing equal work, was she really?

Mar. 13 2012 10:03 AM

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