Ledbetter brings ‘grace and grit’ to University Forum


The University of Southern Mississippi will welcome Lilly Ledbetter, equal pay activist, as a guest speaker on March 1 at 6:30 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium as part of the University Forum.

The talk will center around her 2013 book titled, “Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond.”
Ledbetter, an Alabama native, caused controversy in the late 90s when she filed a suit against her then employer, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., for unequal pay in comparison to her male counterparts.

The lawsuit was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court and dismissed due to the fact that she did not file within the 180 days allotted after receiving her first paycheck from the company.

After a seemingly-failed attempt at equality, Ledbetter’s voice was finally heard in 2009 when Congress passed an act in her name to soften the time limitations in battles against unequal pay.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed by President Barack Obama, declares that the 180 days to file a suit resets upon every paycheck
received that is affected by discriminatory actions.

In a conversation with The Washington Post, Ledbetter said, “Common sense told me that I was paid less.” That same sentiment is what many women still echo today.

In the United States, the gender wage difference is alive and well with women earning 79 cents to every dollar of a man. Female public figures and women with platforms have not been quiet about the issue, speaking out to demand equity.

Jennifer Lawrence, Academy Award-winning actress and activist, most recently penned an op-ed letter titled “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” for Lenny Letter, a newsletter produced by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner.

After learning through a Sony hack of her significant pay difference, Lawrence wrote, “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony.” She continues, “I got mad at myself.”

Ledbetter felt similar emotions when she realized how much less her pay was. The act in her name is a promising step forward to right the wrongs of gender discrimination and to award women who are experiencing the wage gap, the right to seek justice.

The University Forum has been the main campus lecture series since 1974 and will host two additional guest speakers following Ledbetter later this spring.