Jennifer Lawrence has made headlines before, but her essay on the culture of pay discrimination in Hollywood kicked off a national discussion on one of the most important issues of our time.
The letter, which criticized the social norm demanding women be easy going and grateful in their jobs, resonated with millions of American workers who have had similar experiences beyond just the entertainment industry.
It's an issue that's plagued the American economy since the beginning. Equal pay for equal work sounds like a given in the modern world, but attempts at legislating a solution have historically fallen short. 1963's Equal Pay Act and Obama's 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act have done little to close the gender pay gap, as working women earned 77% of what men earned in the year 2010. The negative effects of this discrimination aren't only being felt by women; they negatively impact families, businesses, and the economy as a whole.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 transformed the economy, creating a more inclusive and level playing field in the American workplace and opening up opportunities for women looking to enter the professional world.
The landmark bill worked to improve the lives of millions of Americans and was a huge step towards ending workplace discrimination. It narrowed the pay gap between men and women while allowing half the population to pursue opportunities that they were previously cut off from. However, 50 years after the legislation was passed, attempts to further push for gender equality have been few and far between.
"50 years ago, Congress and the President recognized that the Equal Pay Act was the first step to address overt sex-based compensation discrimination in employment that impeded women’s ability to achieve workplace equality." - WhiteHouse.gov
The Lilly Ledbetter Act, the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama, was the most significant amendment made to the Equal Pay act since its signing. The new law made it easier for women to report sexual discrimination in the workplace, closing a loophole that many companies have previously used to avoid liability.
The bill directly challenged The Supreme Court's decision in the Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company case, where Lilly Ledbetter was denied restitution from her employer due to an outdated portion of the Equal Pay Act.
You can learn more about Lilly Ledbetter's fight against discrimination in the video below!
While the Lilly Ledbetter Act makes it easier for employees to fight back when they've been discriminated against, there is little in place to prevent discrimination before it starts.
According to AmericanProgress.org, the average woman loses $431,000 over her lifetime has a result of the pay gap. That number gets even bigger for women who are minorities, single, or have children.
Equal pay has become one of the major talking points candidates are positioning themselves around in the 2016 election. As we've seen in recent presidential races, the women's vote has become an increasingly significant margin politicians can no longer ignore. Voters are making themselves heard; as long as the candidates are listening, another landmark equal pay bill shouldn't be too far away.