Jacksonville’s Lilly Ledbetter worked for years at Jacksonville State University and H&R Block before changing jobs to earn more for her growing children
She took a job at Goodyear Tire in Gadsden as a supervisor in the production department and later became an area manager, also in production.
She did not know until 19 years after working at Goodyear that she earned less than men who worked in the same capacity. When she found out, she raised a voice that continues today.
Ledbetter will speak Thursday at the Women in Philanthropy Brunch, a fundraiser. The event is at The Club in Birmingham and is open to the public. Those interested in attending should call 256-453-0096. Ledbetter’s daughter, Vickie Saxon, will introduce her at the event.
The Women in Philanthropy is a scholarship at Jacksonville State University that assists women interested in becoming leaders, and it seeks to honor JSU alumnae who have become leaders.
The invitation to speak follows two other honors she has received this year. In April, Ledbetter is one of nine women honored by the National Women’s History Project, and she is one of four women who received the Sales Force Trailblazer Award.
Ledbetter’s lawsuit against Goodyear first brought her national attention when the suit made it to the Supreme Court in 2007. That attention exponentially increased when the United States Congress named the Fair Pay Restoration Act in her honor. The attention grew even more when, in 2009, President Barack Obama signed the bill. Since then, she has traveled to Rome, Italy and to Barbados in the Caribbean area where she was honored for her efforts. She has co-authored a book about her struggles called Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay, and signed a contract on a movie offer about her life.
“Looking back” said Ledbetter, who is 79 years old, “it is hard to put things into perspective because it is so over the top.”
Ledbetter said her hope is that women’s issues will continue at the forefront of people’s minds. She wishes companies were required to release pay rates upon request, the topic of what was then called the Paycheck Fairness Act that has been voted down throughout the years by members of the Republicans Party.
Recently, Ledbetter paused when asked about the current focus on sexual harassment that has been fueled by another well-known Alabamian, Roy Moore, and by nationally known incidents brought to light by the words or actions of President Donald Trump, movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and other male leaders in positions of leadership.
“These are terrible things that have happened,” Ledbetter said. “A lot of women have been trapped because, if they speak up, they may lose their job.”
In her book, Ledbetter tells about the sexual harassment by a co-worker at Goodyear. She asked for a transfer away from the man and received one. Later, a manager suggested she accompany him to a local hotel in order to get a promotion.
These days Ledbetter spends her time traveling to promote women’s issues, and she volunteers with other fundraisers. She is proud that both Republicans and Democrats supported the Fair Pay Act, and she is proud that men have thanked her for improving the lives of their mothers, daughters and wives, in regard to their careers. She loves to think back on all of the places her work has taken her and all of the people she has met.
“I never think about stopping,” Ledbetter said. “I tease my family and tell them that they will have to reschedule my funeral because I’ll have a speaking engagement somewhere.”
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