Lilly Ledbetter To Speak In Athens Thursday

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Ohio University is recognizing International Women's History month by welcoming one of the country's most influential women's rights activists.
Lilly Ledbetter is scheduled to speak in Athens Thursday evening about gender inequality in the workplace. The lecture is part of OU's annual Kennedy Lecture series.

"I'm very excited about Lilly Ledbetter visiting our campus. I know she has a lot of (student) admirers," she said. "But also, I think amongst faculty and staff and townspeople in general because people do look up to her as a leader, as someone who wouldn't take no for an answer," said Suzanna Dietzel, director of OU's Women's Center.

Ledbetter is the namesake of the Fair Pay Protection Act, which was the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama at the beginning of his first-term presidency in 2009.

"It was an 18-month journey to get that law changed, and I stayed in Washington as often as I possibly could lobbying for that bill to make sure that it did get passed because it meant so much to so many American families," Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for 19 years before finding out that she made 40 percent less than her male counterparts who did the exact same job. She said she never would have found out about the gap in pay if she hadn't received an anonymous note on her desk.

"I was shocked, devastated and the first thing I thought about was how much overtime money that I had been short-changed besides the basic pay," she said.

Ledbetter said the pay gap wasn't just an obstacle while working for the company. She said she also experienced difficulties as a result of the discrimination later in life.  \
"It not only hurt my family during the years I was working, but it has followed me into retirement," Ledbetter said.

Despite the progress that has been made over the years in the Women's Rights Movement, Dietzel says there is still a long way to go when it comes to women's equality in the workplace.

"If you ask me what are some of our unfought battles, pay equity remains high on the agenda," Dietzel said.

Ledbetter hopes to inspire women in southeast Ohio to work towards equality and urges them to start in their own communities.

"Start somewhere local. Run for the local commissions, run for local mayor, run for whatever in the state and then move on up to Washington because that is a wonderful career and women have a lot to contribute," Ledbetter said.

Doors will open at the Templeton Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium for Ledbetter's event at 6:30 p.m. and there is no cost for admission.