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US President Barack Obama, with Lilly Ledbetter (R) and Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski (L), signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, January 29, 2009. The wage discrimination bill, which allows employees more time to file a claim, is named after Lilly Ledbetter, a retired worker at a Goodyear factory in Alabama who discovered she was paid less than her male counterparts.
The Senate takes up the Paycheck Fairness Act today. According to the latest census data, women still make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
A new study by researchers at Harvard and NYU may shed some light on the causes for the income gap. Gayle Lemmon analyzed their research in an article published by The Atlantic today, essentially stating that men could be looking at women through the lenses of their own marriages. Men with more traditional marriages, in which the wife did not work outside the home, perceived women-dominated workplaces as less efficient and were less likely to advance women in their own organizations.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen protections for women trying to take action against their employers for wage discrimination. It would require companies to show just cause for any wage disparities between male and female employees. And it would set up training programs to help women negotiate their salaries.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is contributing editor-at-large for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations' Women and Foreign Policy program. Her most recent book is The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.