30 Issues in 30 Days: Equal Pay for Equal Work

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lilly Ledbetter, advocate for pay equity and the inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 (pdf), talks about facing sex discrimination -- and the challenges facing working women.

Carrie Lukas, vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women's Forum, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney debate the need for pay equity legislation in 2008.

Inger Arenander, senior political commentator at Swedish Radio, explains how equal pay works in Sweden and what the US might learn from their system.


Inger Arenander, Lilly Ledbetter, Carrie Lukas and Carolyn Maloney

Comments [48]


Lilly Ledbetter spent 10 years of her life fighting this case and working to get this the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed. Let's give something back!

Make Lilly Right is a campaign to get 1 million women to each give Lilly a gift of $3 to make it right! Join us:

Apr. 11 2010 05:46 PM
Deb Ruffins from New York

Great show. I'm a mom and an executive with 20+ yrs in the business world so I know the pay gap exists and that conventional wisdom dictates we trade money for time / flexibility which may not be fair but is reality. But let's not forget where we came from - like just getting the vote 88 years ago, just getting the right to choose our husbands last century and, for kicks, google 1943 guide for hiring women for a reminder of the bad old days.

Oct. 22 2008 10:43 AM
Heather from SI

Since men are clearly held up to be the benchmark for pay then why not just pass a law forcing men to work less. Then they would paid less and the "gap" would close. Has this been considered?

Oct. 20 2008 04:12 PM
Victor from Manhattan

Brooklyn Voter, so you're arguing that some employees are "more equal" than others?

If we truly believe in meritocracy, we should all support across-the-board disclosure of employee pay. Why shouldn't employees who conduct themselves more professionally or exhibit a better general attitude at work be rewarded for their behavior as well as their productivity?

Oct. 20 2008 01:07 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

No, no, no #37 (FranciL), compensation is not kept secret in some companies because of corporate greed and building wealth on the backs of female employees as you said in your post. Many companies wish to keep individually negotiated salaries confidential because, while employees should be generally treated equally, the employees are not always equal. What if one employee is better trained and more knowledgeable than another? What if one employee is more productive, conducts themselves more professionally, or exhibits a better general attitude at work? Now, what happens if an unproductive or unprofessional employee finds out they make 5-10 percent less than one of those employees. There should be equal pay for equal WORK, but not equal pay for same job title. Ability should count for something, no?

Oct. 20 2008 12:10 PM

kyla--not to mention that when basic human needs are met (education,jobs/fair pay, healthcare), parents can focus on helping their children with academic progress, AND children have fewer barriers.

Oct. 20 2008 12:07 PM
Kyla from Harlem

and let's also remember that in Sweden, they have better outcomes for children across the board, especially in the area of education which is deeply tied to parental involvement in the early years. Imagine, kids who see their mothers AND fathers fare better than those who don't! You only have to look around our city to see that America has very far to go in this regard. Mono-racial society or not, we have a lot to learn from Sweden.

Oct. 20 2008 12:00 PM

ayanna--it must be the peabody effect!

Oct. 20 2008 11:59 AM

amen, cory--reasonable people don't want to go through the cost and scrutiny that a lawsuit would put upon them. lukas is a typical republican tool, waving her arms madly about "expanding the government"..."government interfering"...without well-vetted laws, equality would never happen. if the goal is to be as profitable as possible, you'd better believe that every sector of business would try to get away with discrimination (age, sex, color--any sort).

brian, try to guide the debate more, please! ms. maloney had to waste valuable time defending her position far more than is practical, which depletes the possibility of presenting any sort of cogent, two-sided discussion.

Oct. 20 2008 11:58 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Thanks #31 (Amy), but my question was more for the segment in general, not Ms. Ledbetter. Equal pay is also a racial issue, and I have known people who suspect their salary and/or work schedule is affected by them not having a "family" (spouse and or children) to support.

Oct. 20 2008 11:57 AM
Kyla from Harlem

Brian - I'm disappointed that you even invited Ms. Lukas to be on your show.

"Lifestyle choices"??? Is caring for the elderly a "lifestyle choice"? Is nursing a baby a "lifestyle choice"?

I understand this when we start talking about fields where there is a clear time-sensitive issue in the workplace - like taking leave from a law firm when the big cases are coming in. But in Ms. Ledbetter's case, we are talking about straight-up, unvarnished sex discrimination. For Ms. Lukas to talk about the threat of frivolous (please!) lawsuits destroying American business? She only serves to underline the endless contradictions of the Republican party. Their rabid fear of "government intervention in our lives" is completely irrational when we still live in a country where all the work of sustaining life and families is left to women, and THEN they are penalized for it.

And as for discrimination, over 60% of Black children live in female-headed homes, so there is both racial and sex discrimination at work in these cases.

And for her information - working "at home" does not mean making a choice to make less money. Going out on my own was the only way that I found to ensure that I get paid what I believe to be "fair" for my work. But not everyone can make this choice - we need men AND women in all fields in order to make society work.

I'm so glad you're following her nonsense up with a view from Sweden, where at least they take these issues seriously.

Oct. 20 2008 11:56 AM
FranciL from NYC

If companies were required to make their employees' pay public (even if just within the company), this problem could be solved very quickly! Mrs. Ledbetter would have seen right away what was happening and could have been fairly compensated. I know the answer -- greed, greed and more greed! Businesses want to pocket as much money as they can, even if it's on the back of their female employees. (And while we're at it, why can't companies posting job openings list the pay amount, or at least the pay range?)

Oct. 20 2008 11:55 AM
Henry from Katonah

Related issues in the Ledbetter case / legislation.
In Ledbetter's case, a small step toward pay-equity, the Supreme court made a narrow ruling. The right side of the court looked at at the text of the statute , as passed by Congress , and ignored the most of the previous case law ( when Ledbetter said districts, I assume she meant circuit courts.) Think of this when you decide which presidential candidate you want niminating judges.
The legislation did not come to a vote in the Seante. It was filibustered and there were 56 votes to end debate. Think of this if you are afraid of the Dems getting (filibuster-proof) super-majority. McCain did not vote, but he was honest enough to say that he would have voted no.

Oct. 20 2008 11:53 AM
tash from les

Its unfortunate that this segment was taken over by fund raising. I know its important to WNYC, but in terms of covering the issues, this one really needed the full hour of coverage. Instead I think it got 15min.

Oct. 20 2008 11:53 AM
John Lobell from Manhattan

Tell the truth -- the real objection is not when jobs are identical -- what the advocates want is for EQUIVALENT jobs -- in hospitals, nurses (female) should be paid as much as janitors (male) -- but the problem is that this skips supply and demand (in fact nurses now do get more than janitors), and substitutes a WASHINGTON BUREAUCRACY that would determine the pay rate for every job.

Oct. 20 2008 11:52 AM
jtt from nyc

What makes a corporate middle manager more valuable to society than a school teacher?

Teacher pay is low becase it is a traditionaly female field, not becasue teachers don't work hard or are unskilled.

Oct. 20 2008 11:50 AM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

I found the series 30 Issues in 30 Days to be very informative during the primaries, but it has badly deteriorated in the general elections. This segment is typical. One or more guests with questionable ability to address the issue. Minimal analysis of the candidates' positions. Brian injecting inapproprate levity and/or spreading misinformation, i.e. comparing Ms. Ledbetter TO HER FACE to the dissembling and idiotic "Joe the Plumber." I wish this was the exception, but it is becomeing typical of these supposedly issues-based programs. Brian, what is happening to your show?

Oct. 20 2008 11:48 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Voter [10]: Ms. Ledbetter mentioned minorities in addition to women twice, although I don't think she gave any examples involving racial minorities, or the others you mentioned.

Oct. 20 2008 11:47 AM
marylou Krajci from New York City

By denying women equal pay for equal work, congress and the supreme court are denying women equal social security payments when they retire, thus keeping a lot of women in poverty.

Oct. 20 2008 11:46 AM

ms. lukas, most of us would LOVE to work at home, but it's rarely allowed on any significant basis. the u.s. is pretty biased when it comes to work sharing/flexible hours. aren't you lucky that your partner earns more than you, allowing the possibility for you to stay home. most of us, particularly the childless, have no such privilege.

Oct. 20 2008 11:45 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Sorry, I hit submit too quickly. Otherwise the HR department of a particular company has to get away with discrimiation for a limited period of time and then they're home free and can continue to discriminate without fear of reprisal.

Oct. 20 2008 11:44 AM
PJBeee from Ridgewood, NJ

Oops. I think I meant to cite Carrie Lukas.

Oct. 20 2008 11:44 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Are you kidding, ms. Lukas? Ms Ledbetter didn't find out about the pay discrimination against her until it had been going on for over a decade! The standard for statutes of limitations is that they start counting when the crime comes to light, not when it was first committed. The way this law was written allows companies to get away w/discrimination by simply keeping it covered up. How can Ms. Lukas defend a law that does that?

Oct. 20 2008 11:43 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Is equal pay primarily an issue where people are wage and not salaried. It seem pretty straightforward when employees are wage and especially when under a collective bargaining agreement or pay scales/grades. The issue with salaried employees is that, albeit flawed, the system is based on a meritocracy where employees are supposedly paid based on their skills and productivity. I think there are practical reasons salaries are kept confidential, even though confidentiality can be abused.

Oct. 20 2008 11:42 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Wage discrimination if a continuing violation of the law -- each time Ms. Ledbetter received a check her rights were being violated. So the statute of limiations should begin again with each paycheck she received.

Oct. 20 2008 11:42 AM
MLJ from Brooklyn

Ack! Why do you have someone from the Independent Women's Forum?! This organization systematically undermines efforts to support women under this continuous claim that feminist endeavors victimize women. Lynne Cheney (Dick's wife) was until recently a board member. The points the guest is making only underscore the need to support better legislation for maternity AND paternity leave, child care, etc., which would help women to earn equally and not consistently bear a much greater burden as parents and caretakers.

Oct. 20 2008 11:42 AM
Ellen Ross from Manhattan

On the "choices" of academic women to which your conservative commentator on equal pay refers:

These are not completely free choices. They are built on certain assumptions and institutions, and even privileged women like ourselves work with significant constraints. Women do more housework and childcare. They may choose less demanding positions, publish less, "network" less with colleagues, and ultimately get promoted more slowly and paid less than their male colleagues. Universities and colleges have spotty, sometimes nonexistent, leave policies for childbirth, so many women have to "choose" to return to work after just a few weeks of giving birth. Women "choose" to attend fewer conferences and in general to travel less for research and meetings--which also has an impact on their careers.

Oct. 20 2008 11:42 AM
Ken from NYC

To Alex (16): I believe that Ms. Maloney said that the report does control for these factors, and still finds a pay gap between genders.

Oct. 20 2008 11:42 AM

robert--in my experience, it's almost all job sectors. in my group, there sat two attorneys (one a former teacher), an LPN, and a marketing executive. all knew they were not being fairly paid, and discovered same during a time where they would be considered "middle management".

Oct. 20 2008 11:41 AM
PJBeee from Ridgewood, NJ

Carolyn Maloney cites statistics about how typical women and men behave, and uses these to show why unequal pay is acceptable. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. These arguments are the basis upon which racial discrimination practiced for years. To be fair, the OPPORTUNITY (and commensurate pay) MUST be equal in all cases.

If women (or men, for that matter) need time off for child care etc., that need might affect their compensation at that point; it should NOT be built into the employers' assumptions about workers' future behavior.

Oct. 20 2008 11:40 AM
Cory from earth

These unfocused debates reflect poorly on Brian. The extent of the disparity is irrelevant. The law should provide remedies no matter how small or large the disparity is. The right wing chant that remedies will only benefits lawyers is nonsense. I'm a lawyer. You don't bring a lawsuit for the hell of it. You only sue if there is something to recover. Trial lawyers' bananzas are just scare tactics.

Oct. 20 2008 11:39 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I remember a guest on WNYC a some months ago, a businesswoman, who was saying that women do not negotiate as vigorously as men for higher starting salaries and raises. This certainly would have an impact as well.

Oct. 20 2008 11:39 AM
Alex from brooklyn

This is a dumb debate, between the two guests. Statistical analysis can take all of this (e.g. majors, hours worked, field, professional, job, etc.) into account to let us know.

Moreover, these studies exist.

Claims that the gap is all due to these choices are eithr stupid or intentionally misleading. Claims about the size of the gap that do not make these corrections are either stupid or misleading. You see, there actually is a technical precise answer to the question of how big the gap is. The debate there should be over which factors to include in the model.

Of course, the more difficult question is why women make those choices. That takes qualitative research, which is harder and more time consuming that the quantitative research/analysis that will tell us the size of the current wage gap.

Oct. 20 2008 11:38 AM
Marisa from Brooklyn

The issue for women must be made more expansive than just the pay differential. Laws must enacted to protect the jobs and pay of both women and men who take time off to raise their families. Family commitments also determine why some women 'choose' jobs that pay less. Women must not be financially punished for having children!

Oct. 20 2008 11:38 AM

What type jobs are most likely to discriminate against women? Law firms or other professional? School Teachers? University Professors? McDonald's restaurant managers? Factory jobs?

Also, at what stage of a woman's career does the pay differential kick-in? At entry-level, mid-level or senior?

Oct. 20 2008 11:37 AM

would someone give ms. lukas a sedative? my own informal research (done this past weekend) revealed that 4 out of 5 women who shared their career histories verified that they were being underpaid by as much as half of their male counterparts with parity experience and education. many thought that it was particularly worse for women who were single, because of the long-held (and somewhat false) belief that men are usually the breadwinners of most families.

Oct. 20 2008 11:37 AM

How much of this is simply that men might be better at negotiating salary better than women?

Most salaries are posted as a range. At many career forums I have attended they talk about how women don't negotiate salary as aggressively as men.

And, why is it anyone's business what someone makes at a job?

Oct. 20 2008 11:37 AM
jean from manhattan

Ms Lukas the woman's choice for different kinds of work does not take into account the need for equal pay for EQUAL WORK!!

Oct. 20 2008 11:36 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Are there other non-gender based pay gaps (E.G. race, marital status, sexuality, number of dependents, age, etc) or is the only concern gender based ones?

Oct. 20 2008 11:35 AM
Adriana from Brooklyn

...that's not to defend McCain, I just thought it was amazing that he would defend the ruling in the debate.

Victor, management/HR almost always tells employees not to discuss salary.

I found out a male employee hired after I was hired was making about $15K more than I was and went directly to management with my head on fire. To their credit (whatever!) I did get a salary "correction." But I wonder how often this happens b/c men come to salary negotiation with a greater sense of entitlement

Oct. 20 2008 11:22 AM
Amy from Manhattan

So this law was specifically written w/a provision overriding the default statute of limitations, which starts running when the violation is discovered, not when it originally occurred? Do other laws contain the same provision? Do they tend to be certain types of laws, maybe other anti-discrimination laws?

I'm glad to hear Ms. Ledbetter is continuing to work on behalf of others who have been subjected to pay discrimination. I hope a law fixing the deficiencies in the current one will be passed by the next Congress. (& BTW, Ms. Ledbetter mentioned an ENT doctor--that stands for ear, nose, & throat, in case anyone didn't know)

Oct. 20 2008 11:20 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

LOL good one Lily!! Joe the plumber is not even his real name!

Oct. 20 2008 11:15 AM
Victor from Manhattan

I worked for one of the universities in NYC for a number of years. As recently as just a few years ago, I was told by my department administrator that I was not to discuss my salary with anyone (same as what Ms. Ledbetter is saying).

Oct. 20 2008 11:14 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

mccain did not comment because he agrees that men should be paid more than women. he is not deaf yet.

Oct. 20 2008 11:14 AM
Adriana from Brooklyn

To my recollection McCain did comment on this case in the 3rd debate, saying something about how Ledbetter was too late.

Oct. 20 2008 11:11 AM
barry from Manhattan

She got screwed.

Oct. 20 2008 11:10 AM
SF from NYC

I heard about a report that was done around men who had traditional views of gender roles in society and men who did not. It turned out that among men, those who had a traditional view made much more on average than those who had a more modern approach to gender roles.
Could your guest discuss this?

Oct. 20 2008 10:38 AM
Jesse Califano from TPA & NYC

Jesse Califano: 'The unspoken word- written!"

So how about this as a novel concept:

Unequal pay to individuals based on unequal performance of those same individuals!

Wow! Watta concept for a free-market society!

Oct. 20 2008 10:37 AM

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