Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Profile

Lilly Ledbetter

Equal Pay for Equal Work

More From Lilly

In this video

June 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Equal Pay Act.  Since the passing of the act, there still remains a huge gender wage gap that Lilly Ledbetter's efforts have helped take measures to close. Ledbetter shares the story of her battle to achieve equal pay for women nationwide.

Lilly's Biography

Causes of Choice: American Association of University Women & National Women’s Law Center
Childhood Dream: To become an engineer.
Proudest Achievement: Having a bill named after her in Congress, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Best Advice Received: “To always be true to myself and honest in everything I did.”

Lilly Ledbetter worked as an area manager at Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Alabama for nineteen years. Her crusade to remedy the gender-based pay discrimination that she suffered during that time received national attention, and her activism led to the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009.
 
Ledbetter grew up in rural Alabama and began working in her grandfather’s cotton fields while she was a teenager. She married Sergeant Major Charles Ledbetter and had two children. In 1979, she took a job as an overnight shift manager and area manager at the local Goodyear plant.
 
As part of her contract, Ledbetter was forbidden to discuss the details of her pay with other employees. As she approached retirement in 1998, however, an anonymous tipster alerted her to an alarming fact: despite receiving a “Top Performer” award in 1996, she had been making far less than her male colleagues for the entirety of her employment at Goodyear.
 
Outraged, Ledbetter made a formal complaint against Goodyear with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. After the company tried to discipline her by assigning her to manual labor, Ledbetter filed a discrimination suit and was awarded approximately $3.3 million in damages (later reduced to $360,000 because of a law limiting a company's liability for damages.)
 
Goodyear, however, appealed and the case ended up in the the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in favor of the tire-maker, saying that Ledbetter had missed the statute of limitations (then, only 180 days from her first unequal paycheck) to file a discrimination suit.
 
Although she never received any compensation for the discrimination she faced, Ledbetter fought to pass legislation ensuring that other women would not have to deal with the same inequities she had. In 2009, President Barack Obama made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first piece of official legislation that he signed upon taking office. The bill revises previous legislation so employees can sue up to 180 days after receiving any discriminatory paycheck.

Related Videos

Byllye Avery
Byllye Avery
Women's Health Advocate

For more than 30 years, Byllye Avery has been a health care activist dedicated to bettering the welfare of low-income African American women through self-help groups and advocacy n...

Muriel Siebert
Muriel Siebert
First Lady of Wall Street

Muriel Siebert was the founder and president of the nationally renowned stock brokerage firm Muriel Siebert & Co. In 1967, she became the first woman to own a seat on the New Y...

Ellie Smeal
Ellie Smeal
Co-Founder & President, Feminist Majority

Eleanor (Ellie) Smeal, is Co-Founder and President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Through both organizations...

Diahann Carroll
Diahann Carroll
Actress

Diahann Carroll is an award-winning actress who broke barriers in American television as the first African American women to not only star in a series, "Julia", but also ...