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On Sept. 17, activist Lilly Ledbetter, whose battle for equal pay as a female manager at an Alabama tire plant took her to the Supreme Court, met in conversation with Lifeway Foods president and CEO Julie Smolyansky.

Ledbetter, who started at the Goodyear plant in a supervisory role in 1979, accepted every available overtime shift while enduring harassment from male colleagues. Her car was vandalized.

“Most of the men had never, never worked with women (managers). A lot of them would say, ‘Well, I’m not taking orders from a woman. I listen to one at home. I’m not listening to one here’.”

-Lilly Ledbetter, Activist

When Ledbetter was tipped off that her base pay was 40 percent lower than men doing the same job, she was infuriated.

All she wanted was an equal chance. Her fight led eventually to federal legislation that strengthens efforts to prevent pay discrimination. She attended the White House ceremony when President Barack Obama signed the The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2009.

“This was the first piece of legislation signed when he became president. What was that like, standing at the White House and seeing your work, your dedication, your sacrifices now impacting the rest of our lives?” JS

“I looked out at the people there that day and there was standing room only…I knew that meant good things for all of the people out there in the workforce today.” LL

If Ledbetter’s story sounds like a Hollywood movie, you’re right.

A second guest at our event was Hollywood director Rachel Feldman. She soon begins production on an independent film, “Lilly,” starring Patricia Clarkson (HBO’s “Sharp Objects”).

“Fair pay is so important. But for me that’s not what the movie is about….It’s really about moral courage and about bravery and about standing up for what’s right.”

-Rachel Feldman, Director and Screenwriter

Feldman said Ledbetter’s story has broad — and personal — appeal. As a director in the male-dominated entertainment industry, building a career was doubly difficult for her.

“We are all Lillies…. My own discrimination in Hollywood, it wasn’t really overt discrimination. It was exclusion. Women were excluded from being hired.”

-Rachel Feldman, Director and Screenwriter

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