Jan. 29, 2016 at approximately 12:19 p.m est., President Barack Obama spoke on advancing equal pay. The speech took place in the South Court Auditorium of the White House addressing the issues concerning equal pay for men and women. Obama used several statistics and comments motivating his audience to join the fight against discrimination in America towards women in the workforce.
Introducing his speech with the example of Lilly Ledbetter, Obama creates his argument that America has a long way to go stating, “we knew that our work wasn’t done.” The information found below will be an analyzation of several statements claimed during this speech.
Claim 1: “..she was by my side when I signed my first bill into law— the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act”
The beginning statement indicates the presence of Lilly Ledbetter during the signing of Obama’s first bill. A video that was taken at the event prove Lilly Ledbetter was in fact at the side of Obama during the signing of the new law.
The claim also includes the Fair Pay Act was Obama’s very first bill signed into law upon his presidency. A report by the WhiteHouse.org archives find the law was signed back on January 30, 2009. It states, “ On January 29, 2009 President Obama signed his very first piece of legislation: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.”
This act was for the benefit of Lilly Ledbetter, a women who became the example of gender discrimination in the workplace.The story of Lilly Ledbetter moves on to the second claim.
Claim 2: “..no woman would ever face the kind of discrimination that Lilly faced on the job.”
Ledbetter held a high ranking position as an overnight supervisor for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company beginning in 1979. According to Time Magazine her time there was not without acts of gender discrimination.
Time reveals, “During her career at Goodyear, Ledbetter suffered sexual harassment and day-to-day discrimination”
Upon entering into her new position, the company asked her to sign a contract stating she would not be allowed to discuss salaries with any other co-workers and the information was to be held confidential.
It was not until the eve of her retirement in 1989, did Ledbetter come to the realization she had been underpaid compared to her male co-workers. An anonymous note from a co-worker informed her of the salary difference revealing,
“Ledbetter was making $3,727 per month, while men doing the same job were paid $4,286 to $5,236 per month.” – Time
When she went to court with this new information, she was not compensated for her lost earned money. Summarized by Oyez the Ledbetter versus Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company conclusion by the Supreme Court was a 5 to 4 vote in the favor of Goodyear.
Oyez states, “the Court ruled that Ledbetter’s claim was time-barred by Title VII’s limitations period.” Judges Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito all agreed upon a 180 day limit from first salary discrimination to file a case.
In an interview between Ledbetter and the Colbert Report, she discusses the events of her trial.
Claim 3: “Today, women account for almost half of the workforce.”
The US Census Bureau released the most updated statistics focusing on women in the United States recorded in March 2016. According to their research, a total of 75.6 million women were recorded to have participated in the workforce in 2014. After calculation with these results they concluded, “Women comprised 47.4 percent of the civilian labor force in 2014”.
Claim 4: “But the typical women who works full time still earns 79 cents for every dollar that the typical man does.
The research found in the US Census Bureau again concluded this statement as true stating that 79 cents was,
“The amount that female year-round, full-time workers earned in 2014 for every dollar their male counterparts earned”- US Census Bureau
This research can also be seen in the graph provided by Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014. This same statistic has been a rallying cry by Obama for years, before being 77 cents per dollar a man makes.
In an article published by Politifact , their research shows this statement has been used a multitude of times,
“He used it in a proclamation for National Equal Pay Day (July 20, 2010), in remarks at a White House forum on women and the economy (April 6, 2012), in a conference call with reporters (June 4, 2012), and remarks on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act (June 10, 2013), just to cite a few.” – Politifact
Before as it is now, the numbers stand correct. However, readers must be aware of the background regarding the presence of this statistic as pointed out in the article published by Politifact.
Politifact includes their hesitation to Obama’s statement due to a statistic being used without context. The article says,”..the gap is at least partially explained by the predominance of women in lower-paying fields, rather than women necessarily being paid less for the same job than men are”.
Claim 5: “The typical working woman makes only 60 cents. The typical Latino woman makes only 55 cents for every dollar a white man earns.”
This statement was fact checked by research conducted by the Institute for Women’s Research Policy Research. An article published in April 2016 presents the most recent findings of racial wage gap titled, “The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation 2015 and by Race and Ethnicity”.
The final numbers conclude,
“For all occupations considered together, Hispanic women have the lowest median earnings at $566 per week (56.3 percent of the median weekly earnings of white men—$1,005, Table 3). Black women have median weekly earnings of $615 or 61.2 percent of the median weekly earnings of white men”.
Claim 6: “The gap is even wider for women of color”
The research stated above by the Institute For Women’s Research Policy concludes this statement is correct. It is important to notice this research is adapted to very broad occupational groups.
The Institute adds, “The distribution of women across the occupations varies for each group”, indicating the numbers may change when focusing on specific job occupations the survey may not have included. Their research also adds women are four times as likely to work in occupations with poverty level wages which add to the final numbers found in ” The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation”
The research states in Table 1, the 10 most common occupations for women include lower wage jobs such as administrative assistants, registered nurses, elementary school teachers, receptions and information clerks and more. This compared to the top 10 for men including, first-line supervisors, computer software engineers, chief executives and more which result in a higher paying salary.
This number grows even higher for women of color who have a higher percentage working in poverty level jobs.
The article states, “..black and Hispanic women are about twice as likely to work in ‘service’ occupations as white women..”
In a table provided by the article regarding to the median weekly earnings by race and ethnicity, it includes percentages further proving the above statement. According to the research, it found for service occupations a total of 23.2% of black women and 26.0% of Hispanic women were working in this field.
Overall, Obama’s statistics were found factually correct. The importance of equal pay for women in America is a relevant cause and continues to be discussed in the present elections. For a citizen able to vote, it is important to verify information stated by any presidential candidate be put within the correct context to prove if information given is reliable.