Making A Difference

She knew something was incorrect.

She knew something was not right.

She was very observant.  That was her natural talent.

Defective Tire
Defective Tire

She had to be observant.  Some of the guys could be really nasty.  She might get run over, figuratively, the tires were big, but more importantly the company was big, and it paid the highest wages around — well, at least it appeared so on the surface.  With a closer inspection …

She was doing her job, and as she saw it, her duty.  And she worked hard at her job, was super dependable, and did a good job.  It was a hard job.  But, she figured, at least, it wasn’t picking cotton — she had done enough of that when she was young.  She had been working hard ever since she could remember.  Her production numbers were good, and her waste numbers were low.

She was thankful for that.  She loved her work.  She was proud of it. She was loyal.  She stayed, stood her ground, and made a difference… despite the pot shots sent her way.


She made a Big Difference, despite no apparent apprecation.

Grace and Grit

She had to go to the Supreme Court to make that difference to be seen.

“THE DAY I discovered the note that changed the course of my life started like any other…”

“… I’d never in my life gotten a note like this before. Someone had listed my name and those of the three other tire-room managers, with salaries next to each name. My salary was exactly correct, down to the dollar. Over the years, I’d worried about being paid less than the men who were doing the same work I was, but I didn’t have any proof. I was like a wife nursing a nagging suspicion that her husband’s having an affair, with no hard evidence. But now there it was in plain black ink, what I’d always feared: The other managers, all men, had been making more than I was.

A lot more.

Ledbetter, Lilly; Isom, Lanier Scott (2012-02-28). Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond (p. 5). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The company Goodyear had not really adapted well to the changing environment, its plant in Gadsden, Alabama for the past fifty years struggled to keep up, slow to change with the times.  Producing tires in this factory had been its main stay — a lucrative business most of the time.  There is boom and bust of the business cycle, the company can economize and lay-off some their workers when necessary, patch the machinery when necessary, to keep it going.  It is part of the rust belt American manufacturing.   And when the corporate of Goodyear like most big companies, opened up manager positions to women in the sixties and seventies, it was really a token effort on their part, just placating and adhering to the letter of the law, the Civil Rights laws, not the spirit.  And local managers and workers, in the belly of the old South, Gadsden Alabama, also came kicking and screaming too (but not enough kicking and screaming to jeopardize their jobs).

They really didn’t mean it. What they said on the record was not what they said, off the record. Yeah, you can apply, that’s the law — but most liked it the way it was — blacks and women need not apply.  To them — “It’s a man’s world: manufacturing is a tough and dirty business.”  No place for a woman.  You know — “the place for the woman is her kitchen.”  They did ok before, they thought, and — “why don’t you quit like the others.”  They did not want to change if they didn’t have to: they had their production and budgets to meet. They had their job.

She had her job too.  She wouldn’t quit either.  She stood her ground.  And when she knew something wasn’t right, she would not backdown.  She knew she was a good manager; she worked hard.  Putting twelve hours in on an eight hour job, she knew she had to, she was a woman — and most men in the plant would discount her work or blame her for their mistakes.   She was an easy scapegoat.  She knew there was no one in the company she could rely on to be on her side.  But she didn’t quit, she was proud of her work, and the pay was good and fair..  At least she hoped it was — after all it’s the law.

You see, Lilly Ledbetter, an Inspector Guardian, couldn’t correct a problem if she couldn’t inspect the numbers.  She was good, very good, actually, with numbers: that’s how she got the job in the first place. She scored well on her tests, to qualify for her manager position, even though she couldn’t afford college, coming from a poor family, who had barely survived the Depression, in Possum Trot, Alabama.  Nevertheless, she received a “Top Performance Award” in 1996, for one of her managers, who bucked the system and risked supporting for her hard work, even though the award did not get her a raise commensurate with other managers.  Most companies discourage actively employees from discussing their pay with others, and in 1996 her pay raise was lower than all the other men.  And she couldn’t do anything about the numbers that Goodyear hid from her.  And those numbers were clear: her managers at the Gadsden plant were short changing her.  As it turned out about $ 224,000 in salary over her time at Goodyear, with retirement and social security being even more.

The one word that best describes Inspectors is superdependable. Whether at home or at work, Inspectors are extraordinarily persevering and dutiful, particularly when it comes to keeping an eye on the people and products they are responsible for. In their quiet way, Inspectors see to it that rules are followed, laws are respected, and standards are upheld.

Inspectors (as much as ten percent of the general population) are the true guardians of institutions. They are patient with their work and with the procedures within an institution, although not always with the unauthorized behavior of some people in that institution. Responsible to the core, Inspectors like it when people know their duties, follow the guidelines, and operate within the rules. For their part, Inspectors will see to it that goods are examined and schedules are kept, that resources will be up to standards and delivered when and where they are supposed to be. And they would prefer that everyone be this dependable. Inspectors can be hard-nosed about the need for following the rules in the workplace, and do not hesitate to report irregularities to the proper authorities. Because of this they are often misjudged as being hard-hearted, or as having ice in their veins, for people fail to see their good intentions and their vulnerability to criticism. Also, because Inspectors usually make their inspections without much flourish or fanfare, the dedication they bring to their work can go unnoticed and unappreciated. [Please Understand Me II]

openquoteBecause women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make. Those pennies add up to real money.closedquote — Lilly Ledbetter 

Other Inspector Guardian blogs:  Trust Me, The Real Iron Lady.

2 thoughts on “Making A Difference

  1. goodrumo January 9, 2013 / 2:04 pm

    Fantastic example of Inspector Guardian temperament. Her book ‘Grace and Grit’ is insight to her, (very detailed naturally.)


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