I recently attended a candidate forum with the two other Democrats running in the HD50 special election where I was asked what my first piece of legislation would be that I would file if elected to the Texas Legislature. Without hesitation, I answered “The Lilly Ledbetter Act”. This was a bill that passed this session, but was vetoed at Rick Perry’s desk. As I said to that audience, this is a topic close to my heart, but time constraints prevented me from going into more detail about why this was so important to me.
Several years ago, as a young woman working in the Austin tech industry, I was aware of the equal pay issue but I’d been fortunate to never have any first-hand experience – or so I thought. One evening at happy hour, I was with several male colleagues, who all held similar or same positions as I did, in computer technology, and the conversation turned to salary and level. I learned that they were all “C1” level whereas I was one below. In their surprise, they asked me what I made, and I divulged. Shocked, one friend said, “Wow, Jade. You really should say something.”
I will always remember the embarrassment and my own feeling of shock and dismay. I went to my VP, who was also a mentor, and he said, “Jade, you need to let people know how you feel. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I did. I brought up the issue to my manager and senior manager, who all listened and took my comments seriously. The next performance review, I got a raise, a promotion, and even some stock options. By that time, I had already made the decision to explore entrepreneurship and wouldn’t stay much longer but I sincerely appreciated the how my complaint was handled.
For me, it didn’t take the Lilly Ledbetter Act to resolve a pay inequity. Unfortunately, not every company embraces equality and fairness the way mine did. And for those women working at one of those companies in Texas, they currently do not have a legal remedy in state court.
It was shameful for Rick Perry to veto a bill that would have affirmed that women in Texas are right to expect and demand equal pay. This Texas Lilly Ledbetter Act would be good for women, good for business and good for Texas.
If elected, this bill will be the first piece of legislation I file and you’ll be able to count on me to fight vigilantly for its’ passage.