Negotiation Is Key For Women Seeking Equal Pay

May 4, 2013

Equal-pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter signs her new book for a fan at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
Credit C. DiMattei

The woman whose name is synonymous with the fight for equal pay for women brought her message to South Florida this week.  And Lilly Ledbetter has some advice for working women at any stage of their careers:  learn how to negotiate.

A study released last month by the National Partnership for Women & Families shows that South Florida women are earning 86 cents for every dollar their male co-workers earn.  Although that's better than the national average of 77 cents, Ledbetter responds to that statistic with three words:

"Not good enough."

The Fair Pay Act that President Obama signed into law in 2009 bears Ledbetter's name.  During a speech Thursday before the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches, Ledbetter recounted her legal struggle against the company that paid her less than her male counterparts for nearly twenty years.  That case went all the way to the Supreme Court.  

She says South Florida women who want to close the gender pay gap need to negotiate their salaries from their very first interview.

"Know what the going rate is for that job, regardless of your color or your sex," advises Ledbetter.  "And Google it to know everything you need to know before you get there.  So when that employer makes an offer, you will know if it's the right one or not."

Ledbetter is now working for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The law would require employers to show that pay disparities between male and female employees are related to job performance, not gender.