EQUITY 300HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky (4/15/13) - Thursday night, the Kentucky Commission on Women met to discuss on the working woman, the Kentucky wage gap and the Fair Pay Act.
 
The Kentucky Commission on Women dedicates time to upholding the status of both women and girls in the Commonwealth, by enabling them to overcome barriers and developing support to achieve their fullest potential. “One of our tasks is to identify and address issues that affect the state of women’s lives in Kentucky. And one of those issues is the pay disparity between what women make and what men make in the state of Kentucky,” stated Dr. Susan Edington, a member of the Kentucky Commission on Women.
 
Mary Werner, a Humanities Professor at Madisonville Community College stated, “It wasn’t until 1963 we got the Equal Pay Act. And this act was considered an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Equal Pay prohibited any type of discrimination in the work place and prohibited wage disparity based on gender. However, despite this amendment, unfair practices and pay disparities continue. Both title VII and the Equal Pay Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex and the payment of wages or benefits. The laws against discrimination compensate and cover all forms of compensation.”
 
Back in April of 1964, Governor Edward T. Breathitt established a state commission to study and report on the status of women in Kentucky. In 1968, Governor Louie Nunn signed the executive order that established the Kentucky Commission on Women after the findings demonstrated a need for improvement in women status. By the 1980s, the Kentucky Commission on Women became part of the cabinet for general government as an administrative body attached to the Governor’s office.
 
In the state of Kentucky, the median pay for women who work full-time is $31,628 per year, while the pay for men is $40,911. This means women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting the yearly gap of $9,283 between full-time working men and women in the state of Kentucky.

As a whole, women who work full-time in Kentucky, lose about $5,190,060,319 each year due to the wage gap. In Kentucky, 219,981 households are headed by women and 38.1% of those households live under the poverty line.
 
There is a slight increase in the wage gap between men and women who have an education. Women who had a high school diploma, earn a weekly average of $543 compared to $710 for men. At a college graduate level, women earn a weekly average of $986 compared to $1,330 for men.

For over 10 years, Lilly Ledbetter has been fighting to close the wage gap between men and women. After quarreling with the Supreme Court and lobbying at Capitol Hill in a sex discrimination case with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Ledbetter won a verdict of more than $3 million after she filed a gender pay discrimination suit in federal court. However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling. On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.
 
“Lilly Ledbetter was about family. She was from Alabama; she was a middle class wife with children. She went to college and got a degree in accounting. In 1979, she learned that Good Year were creating a new unit and were hiring women in management. So she applied, went for the interview and got the job. She was the only female in this position, it was a good paying job and she would be able to help her children go to college. As time passed she suspected her salary was not as much as the men who worked there. In 1997, she went to her mailbox at work and found a note that someone had left her that showed the salaries of the men who worked in the same position she was in. And what she red was the lowest salary of a man at Good Year was paid $42,086 and the highest paid man was $52,086. The lowest paid man was making more than she was and they were hired on at the same time and worked the exact same position,” shared Sarah Oglesby, a Humanities Professor at Madisonville Community College.
 
An anonymous source from the audience shared her story about unfairness in the work place, “I started to work right after high school in 1969, and the industry I went in was basic for women around here. It was just about all normal women without education went in. From the get go, I could see such a discrepancy. The women had lower paying jobs and the men got the jobs that paid more money. The excuses that were given were women got pregnant so they can’t come to work, they were secondary earners, men are the bread winners and women were supposed to stay home and take care of the kids. That time era, things were changing. Women weren’t just fighting for discrepancy in the wages but we were fighting for the women’s culture at that time. That they didn’t really think that they deserved the higher paying wages. It’s been a battle for women to actually get to the point to where they think, I deserve to make as much as a man because I’m working just as hard as they are. So it’s not just been a battle in the legislation to getting the laws passed but it’s been a battle for women to finally get to the point where they respect their selves enough and stand up for themselves. And I’ve noticed as I have gotten older that women are stepping up and it’s something I am really proud of as a woman.”
 
For more information about Lilly Ledbetter you can visit her site at www.lillyledbetter.com. You can also visit www.women.ky.gov for more information about the Kentucky Commission on Women.
 
Amber Mena
SurfKY News
Photo Provided by Amber Mena

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