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I'm Lilly Ledbetter and I Approve This Message

This guest-post was written by Lilly Ledbetter.

President Obama and Lilly Ledbetter
President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Four years ago today, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — giving more women the opportunity to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace. That day was incredibly gratifying for me personally, since it meant that no other woman or man would suffer the injustice of learning that they had been paid unfairly for years, and then being told it was simply too late to do anything about it.

Ensuring that women have the tools they need to address pay discrimination is just as important now as it was then. In fact, the wage gap between men and women hasn’t budged in the last ten years, with women still earning 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by the typical man, and that number is worse for women of color. Even a college degree fails to close the gap — a recent AAUW report showed that the wage gap is present at college graduation with women making, on average, 82% of what a man makes.

Numbers and statistics about the progress for women in some areas, and lack thereof in others, made headlines in the 2012 — from the record number of women in Congress to a pointed debate question about the persistence of the wage gap.

To commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Fair Pay Act, here are four facts impacting the fight for equal pay for equal work today:

Four: As I said at the Democratic National Convention [video] in September, what a difference four years make! On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first law passed during his presidency. The law ensures that everyone who experiences pay discrimination gets their day in court by restarting the time limit to file a claim with each discriminatory paycheck.

Three: It’s been three months since President Obama was reelected with a majority of women’s votes. Women are seeking fairness and equity from Capitol Hill and state legislatures across the nation. We deserve no less than equal pay for equal work to help support our families and achieve our dreams.

Two: The Paycheck Fairness Act would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act by improving remedies for pay discrimination, prohibiting employer retaliation, and making it easier for women to seek their day in court. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Barbara Mikulski re-introduced this critical piece of legislation on January 23, 2013, in anticipation of the anniversary of the Fair Pay Act with 130 cosponsors in the House and 22 cosponsors in the Senate. The Paycheck Fairness Act has twice passed the House of Representatives, but failed in the Senate. It’s time for this commonsense piece of legislation to become law.

One: Every single person is affected by the wage gap — it hurts women, it hurts men and it hurts their families. In the vast majority of families both women and men are in the workforce. When women are paid less, whole families suffer.

While I started this fight because of the discrimination that I personally experienced, my story is far from unique. Too many women in America are being paid unfairly, and it’s past time to do something about it. Like I said at the DNC, when women lose 23 cents every hour, every day, every paycheck, every job, over our entire lives, what we lose can’t be measured in dollars. Women are a vital part of the economy and deserve to be recognized for our contributions just the same as any man.

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