Copyright © 2009 Henrietta W. Hay
Women's Pay Equity
February 13, 2009
We women have added one more big step up the ladder. Hillary put 118 million cracks in the ceiling, but the ladder still doesn't reach to the top.
Women have finally won the legal right to equal pay for equal work. President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 in a very emotional ceremony.
He told the story of Lilly Ledbetter as she stood beside him. Lilly, now 70, was nearing her retirement from her job as in Alabama when she found out that her salary was much less than that of men doing the same or less responsible work. She sued her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and a jury found the company guilty of discrimination.
The Supreme Court, however, by a 5 to 4 decision, threw out Ledbetter's case, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the first time Goodyear paid her less than her peers.
Congress passed several bills to overturn the court, but President Bush vetoed them each time.
Now at last Lilly Ledbetter is a winner. She got to celebrate with a dance with the president at an Inauguration ball.
American women have fought the fight for equality for over two hundred years. As the constitution was being written Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John, pleading "Please remember the ladies." Of course he didn't.
For all those years we have been climbing up the ladder, one step at a time.
Some women have been jailed for their activity, some have died in the fight. But step by step we have climbed.
My activity began in the early 1970s. The Grand Junction chapter of the National Organization for Women was formed and feminist activity began in Grand Junction. We had a lot of fun, and we took a lot of criticism. We marched in parades and twenty of us went to Denver as delegates to the Democratic State Convention to work for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Today the results of all the work are being seen in every field.
Locally we have made great progress. Some months ago a friend (male) gave me a list entitled "Women in charge in this valley." There are 15 names on the list, and it is by no means complete. These are women here in Grand Junction who are in positions of great influence. They are women of competence, intelligence and possibly a bit of humor.
We have Laurie Kadrich who is Grand Junction City Manager, Phyllis Norris, President of City Market, Sally Schaefer, C.E.O. of Hilltop, Christy Whitney, C.E.O. of Hospice and Palliative Care, and many others. I wish I had room to list them all. Women may not be "in charge" of Happy Valley, but they are getting close.
And we must never forget that each one of them is standing on the shoulders of the thousands who went before and battled for women's rights.
There is another interesting statistic involving working women. The New York Times reports that in the midst of the current financial crisis, women may soon outnumber men in the work force.
The proportion of women who are working has changed very little since the recession started. But a full 82 percent of the job losses have befallen men, who are heavily represented in distressed industries like manufacturing and construction.
I wonder what John Adams would think if he could see American women today.