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 Moment

Mustering the Strength

Mustering the Strength

More From Lilly

In this video

Ledbetter expands on the moment she found out she was underpaid and how she wanted to hide.

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

Johnnetta Cole
Johnnetta Cole
Groundbreaking Scholar & College President

Dr. Johnnetta Cole is the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. She was a pioneer of African-American studies and black women's studies and made history ...

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook COO

By now, Sheryl Sandberg has spent more than two decades achieving at the highest reaches of governmental and corporate America. And she’s determined to bring more talented y...

Alexa von Tobel
Alexa von Tobel
Personal Finance Expert

Alexa von Tobel is the Founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, the leading personal finance and lifestyle website for women, whose mission is to make trusted personal financial informati...

Priya Haji
Priya Haji
Social Innovator

// Priya Haji passed away at the age of 44 on July 14, 2014. Prior to her passing, she spoke with MAKERS about her career and passion for social innovation. // By the age of 16, P...