Is the Media Sexist? How to Make "Equal Pay" for Women a Sexy, Election News Story and Debate Question?

Have you seen the news stories about the sexy Citibank beauty who claims she was discriminated against and fired because she distracted her male coworkers?
She's banking on (un)covering her assets with a massive multi-media news blitz in the court of public opinion for her next career move. From all staged appearances, she is more intent on promoting her new Double DDs than the bank's CDs.

Have you seen the news stories about Lilly Ledbetter, whose EEOC discrimination case went up to the Supreme Court, and was the basis for the first bill President Obama signed?

Here are the cold facts on the hottie case. She signed a mandatory arbitration clause as a condition of her Citibank employment. Her case will be decided by an arbitrator, rather than a judge or jury. Her lawyer is not registered to practice in New York state. Can you spell PHOTO OP?

Alas, the Citi slicker and her media-savvy, out-of-state attorney, are keen to court the media with constant visuals positioning her as the suffering symbol of sexual discrimination against working women. But where is the media scrutiny to fact-check her story?

Are she -- and the recent parade of women sports commentators -- the new WMDs: Women of Media Distraction? Why are these women capturing headlines and giving interviews, while Lilly Ledbetter and the Paycheck Fairness Act pending Senate approval, are not making news?

The economy, jobs and women voters are cited as key factors in the 2010 Election.
Yet, Election press coverage and the debates have not addressed the issue of Equal Pay and the upcoming Senate vote. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received more than 28,000 charges of sex-based discrimination in fiscal year 2009. Women deserve pay parity, not parody.

Why isn't every candidate asked for his or her position on "Equal Pay for Equal Work" and the pending Senate bill?

Lilly Ledbetter is today's authentic Rosie the Riveter, the World War II icon, who represented working women. Ledbetter worked at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Alabama as an area manager for almost 20 years. She received a "Top Performer" award and was the only woman supervisor in her unit. Nearing retirement, she received an anonymous note revealing the higher pay of her male colleagues. Throughout her career she had been paid less than younger, less-experienced and more junior male workers for the same job. Her supervisor salary was 20 percent lower than that of the lowest-paid male supervisor and 40 percent less than the highest-paid area manager. She filed a suit with the EEOC, under Title VII. A jury found that Goodyear had intentionally discriminated and awarded her back pay and punitive damages amounting to $3 million.

Goodyear appealed the case up to the Supreme Court. In 2007, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision reversed 40 years of legal precedent on "Equal Pay for Equal Work." The new Supreme Court ruling stated that an employee must file a lawsuit within 180 days of the first paycheck discrepancy, even if the victim is not aware until later. Ledbetter received no back pay and no court costs. In retirement, she has become a dedicated advocate for women to earn equal pay.

The corrective Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act allows victims of pay discrimination to file a complaint within 180 days of their last paycheck, as opposed to the Supreme Court ruling allowing only 180 days from the date of the first unfair paycheck. Realistically, employees do not share salary information and many companies consider such disclosure cause for firing.

If "Pro" Is The Opposite Of "Con," Is Progress The Opposite Of Congress?

The House of Representatives passed the Ledbetter Act on January 27, 2009. President Obama signed the Act as his first official piece of legislation into law on January 29, 2009. The Senate has stalled passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, its essential companion legislation, but it could be voted on when the Senate reconvenes in November. Otherwise, the process will have to start all over again in the new Congress next year.

The Frosted Glass Ceiling for Women Senior Executives

When President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act in 1963, women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Today women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men: White women earn 75 cents; African-American women earn 62 cents; Asian women earn 82 cents and Hispanic women earn 53 cents.*

Women executives have advanced since the 1960s. But it becomes crystal clear that they hit the icy frosted glass ceiling rising into the top senior management echelons. Women are 46 percent of the Fortune 500 workforce. But they are only 26 percent of senior officers and managers, hold only 15 percent of board seats, are only 14 percent of Executive Officers and 2.6 percent of CEOs (13 out of 500).** Female managers now earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

Ginger And Fred: Dancing With The Stars Wasn't Equal

Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. Only she had to do it backwards, in high heels, in a tight long dress, for lower salary. In her autobiography, Rogers said, "In my case, there's no question that the discrepancy in treatment and remuneration was due to my gender. When Fred Astaire made his demands to the front office, his requests were honored, while mine were attributed to 'greed' or 'ego.' Plus, she had to spend more time in hair and makeup and costume fittings. Rogers had to negotiate hard to get her equitable paycheck. After much foot-dragging by the studio executives, she stood her ground and won a better contract and a percentage of the profits.

What do Carrie Bradshaw, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Linda McMahon Have in Common?

They didn't vote.

As a women's advocate and historian, who has studied the almost century-long struggle for women's suffrage, I find their voting oversight questionable. They are the quintessential beneficiaries of women's rights challenges to attend top colleges, become corporate officers and own property and businesses. Please Comment on other candidates who did not vote.

Eleanor Roosevelt was 36 when she was allowed to vote for the first time.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, mother of seven, led the first women's rights movement for almost 50 years and organized the Seneca Falls meeting in 1848. She crusaded for women's suffrage, property rights and equal education and wages. Only one woman who attended the 1848 meeting was alive when women finally got the vote in 1920.

Grisly Bare Fact: Vote for The Candidates' Agenda, Not Gender.

Ask your Congressional candidates if they support "Equal Pay for Equal Work."

Call your Senators toll-free at 1-877-667-6650 to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Election 2010 has 14 woman versus woman races: California senator, New Mexico and Oklahoma governor and 11 for the House of Representatives. Equal pay is not just a gender issue. Two-thirds of families with children rely on a woman's wages as a significant portion of their families' income.

Please turn out. Don't tune out. Christine Gregiore was elected Governor of Washington in 2004 in the closest gubernatorial race in history. She won in a final manual count by 133 votes out of 2.8 million cast.


* Source: Institute for Women's Policy Research
** Source: Catalyst