On the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, I am focused on unfinished business. We — women, families, this nation — need Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. When President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law on January 29, 2009 — the first law he signed after taking office — I never dreamed that four years later we’d still be without the Paycheck Fairness Act. I’m ready to bring back the euphoria of 2009. And we have the opportunity to do so right now.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act this Congress. The bill has the support of the president, and we have strong advocates in my friends at AAUW and in you. AAUW was critical to the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 and is already working hard again to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The fair pay issue is on the nation’s radar once again, thanks to President Obama’s inaugural address. I had the great privilege of hearing him in person as he called for equal pay for equal efforts, and I was overjoyed to hear the crowd give that line the most applause. I know the president cares deeply about this issue, and I hope he will consider issuing an executive order that would ban federal contractors from retaliating against employees who ask questions about compensation. This is a critical piece of the Paycheck Fairness Act that the president can address while we wait for and urge Congress to act.
I’m looking to Congress not only for the Paycheck Fairness Act but also for the Fair Pay Act, a bill led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). This bill addresses the gender pay gap between traditionally female-dominated occupations and male-dominated occupations, which continue to pay more despite requiring the same levels of skill and education. I want a society that values women’s and men’s work equally, and I know we can get there together.
You see, this fight for fair pay started out to right a personal wrong, but my fight is now about women nationwide and their families. The pay gap affects whether families can buy food, pay the mortgage, and stay healthy. Do we really want, as AAUW research showed, to continue to allow our female graduates to be paid 7 percent less than male graduates despite working in the same fields and with the same college majors? I won’t rest until that is no longer the case.
Here’s what I ask of you: Stand up for yourselves, stay informed, and take action with the folks at AAUW. And remember, my journey in the fight for pay equity is for you. I hope you’ll stand with me.
AAUW will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act at our 2013 National Convention in New Orleans. On the afternoon of June 10, join us for an anniversary panel featuring Lilly Ledbetter and AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz. Register today so you don’t miss out!
This post was written by fair pay advocate and friend of AAUW Lilly Ledbetter.