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Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment

Fatima Goss Graves is Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women's Law Center, where she works to promote the rights of women and girls at school and in the workplace. Ms. Goss Graves advocates and litigates core legal and policy issues relating to at-risk girls in school, including those that impact pregnant and parenting students, students in a hostile school climate and students participating in athletics. She further works to advance equal pay for equal work, expand opportunities for women in nontraditional fields, and ensure the development of fundamental legal principles of equal opportunity. She uses a number of advocacy strategies in her work on these issues ranging from public education and legislative advocacy to litigation, including briefs in the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. Prior to joining the Center, she worked as an appellate and trial litigator at Mayer Brown LLP. She began her career as a law clerk for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Ms. Goss Graves is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles and Yale Law School.

My Take

Sarah Egan's Story: More Than a Team

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: February 05, 2013 at 06:03 pm

This guest-post was written by Sarah Egan and featured on Fitness.gov.

Come to the blacktop at my middle school and hang out for a couple of hours. You'll get a sense of what 12-to-14-year olds like and how they act. For them this is the center of the world.

When I started teaching in 2009, I watched life unfold on the asphalt. During recess and before and after school, the boys took center stage on all four basketball courts — dribbling, pivoting, guarding, pushing, blocking, faking, jumping, dunking, high fiving and taunting each other. They were agile and fast. The girls talked to each other and watched the boys from the perimeter of the tarmac. My instinct had always been to jump right into the action! Why weren't these girls playing on the blacktop? Why didn't they join the boys or take control of a court themselves?

I teach U.S. and world history to 200 7th & 8th graders in Daly City, California, just south of San Francisco. It's a low-income school and close to 80 percent of the students are new immigrants — from Central and South America, Mexico, Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries. It's tough coming up with a lesson that connects to such a diverse audience. Recently I compared the Declaration of Independence to a break-up letter between a girlfriend and boyfriend. The colonialists listed all the reasons for breaking up with the King of England. This approach totally worked and the kids were hooked!

Three months into the job, the athletic director asked if I'd coach one of the girls' basketball teams — in addition to teaching social studies. Frankly, I was overwhelmed. I hadn't anticipated how difficult teaching would be — especially at a school where kids show up in the morning stressed out.

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I'm Lilly Ledbetter and I Approve This Message

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: January 29, 2013 at 02:45 pm

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.

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Lilly Ledbetter's Anniversary Calls Us To Action

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: January 29, 2013 at 11:40 am

Four years ago today President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, restoring the law that existed for decades in virtually every region of the country prior to the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. The importance of the Ledbetter Act cannot be overstated – in the last 4 years, workers have once again been able to challenge unfair pay in court and pay discrimination claims around the country have been restored.

But even four years ago at the signing of the bill that bears her name, Lilly Ledbetter said the following: “With this bill in place, we now can move forward to where we all hope to be – improving the law, not just restoring it.” Those words are especially true today. The most recent data shows that woman working full time, year round are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This is a statistic that is unchanged from not only four years ago, but this gap has remained the same for a decade. For women of color, it’s much worse, with the typical African-American woman paid 64 cents and the typical Latina woman paid 55 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man. A gap in wages occurs at all education levels, after work experience is taken into account, and it gets worse as women’s careers progress.

If we pair these disturbing statistics with the severe limits to existing laws and policies it is even grimmer. Workers are frequently left in the dark about wage disparities, a problem that is exacerbated by employers that penalize their employees for revealing or discussing wages. In addition, even when women somehow muster enough information to prove discrimination, the remedies are extremely narrow. This means that there are too few incentives for employers to voluntarily comply with the law, and engaging in pay discrimination can be simply an unfortunate “cost” of doing business.

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Why the Supreme Court Needs to Uphold UT Austin’s Admissions Plan

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: October 10, 2012 at 09:00 am

On Wednesday, October 10, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of UT Austin’s undergraduate affirmative-action admissions program. The vast majority of students are admitted under the state’s Top Ten Percent Plan, which requires UT Austin to admit all Texas residents who rank in the top ten percent of their high-school graduating classes. The University also admits a small percentage of its students through a separate process that involves careful, holistic review of all aspects of an applicant’s qualifications, including such things as leadership experience, special talents, work experience, community service, languages spoken at home, family responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and race. It is this modest consideration of race as part of a holistic review that is before the Supreme Court.

Less than ten years ago, in its review of the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions plan, the Supreme Court outlined the many benefits of diversity in higher education. The Court recognized that racially diverse educational environments reduce stereotypes by exposing students to diverse individuals. That diversity helps students encounter a wide range of ideas and experiences, which improve the quality of the education that they receive and help prepare them to be leaders in an increasingly diverse society. Historically, affirmative-action policies have promoted not only racial but also gender diversity, helping eliminate barriers to women’s entrance into historically male-dominated fields such as engineering and computer science. And many educational institutions, and many state universities in particular, have come to value the benefits of diversity as being critical to the educational mission of cultivating civic, government and business leaders.

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Women Can’t Afford Another Decade Lost to the Wage Gap

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: September 12, 2012 at 02:06 pm

Lilly Ledbetter, the tireless advocate for equal pay, knows firsthand how wage discrimination affects women and their families. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention last week, she reminded the country of her wage discrimination story. Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear for nearly 20 years before discovering that she’d been paid unfairly, losing out on thousands of dollars over the course of her career there. After securing a jury verdict in her favor, in 2007 the Supreme Court determined that she would never receive the lost wages for all those years of discrimination because she didn’t complain about being paid unfairly in her first six months on the job. Less than two years later her namesake bill was passed, restoring the law to ensure that future workers could challenge their unfair pay. Under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the time period for challenging pay discrimination begins with the most recent paycheck that reflects unequal wages.

The data released today show that the typical woman is still paid 77 percent of a man’s wages. And when race and sex are considered together, the gap in earnings for women of color are especially stark: African American women make only 64 percent and Hispanic women make 55 percent when compared to white men.  This disappointing news is the sort that should spark policymakers to move forward quickly with additional improvements to the fair pay laws. Yet, opponents of fair pay laws are continuing to attack even the Ledbetter Act. In a recent National Review online piece Carrie Lukas shockingly suggests that women are now worse off because of the Ledbetter Act. Never mind that the Ledbetter Act was passed with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. And never mind that the cases that have been restored since that Act was passed show that the Ledbetter Act had a critical impact. So, as we are faced with the news of a decade of no progress on the wage gap, what’s quite clear is that we cannot waste time revisiting the merits of the bipartisan Ledbetter Act.  Below are just a few of the reasons that it is time to move forward on the next step in achieving fair pay – the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Ledbetter Act restored longstanding law

The rule outlined in the Ledbetter Act, that as long as employees receive discriminatory paychecks they can continue to challenge wage discrimination, restores prior law to that applied by the EEOC and nine of the twelve federal courts of appeals before the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. In other words, it put the law back to what everyone thought it was in 2007. With today’s news that the 23 cent wage gap has remained the same over the last decade, there is no doubt that more is required to overcome 10 years of stagnation. And we have yet to move forward with the policies that will actually update the outdated fair pay laws.

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