How To Close the Gender Wage Gap

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Working to eliminate the persistently stagnant gender wage gap in the United States – American women working full-time have earned, on average, 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts for the last decade – is a challenge complicated by an overall lack of awareness that any gap exists in the workplace.

“Almost uniformly people find out by accident that they are being paid less than co-workers,” said Fatima Goss Graves, the vice president for education and employment at the Washington, D.C.-based National Women's Law Center. “They find out over drinks, over coffee, because someone accidentally says something. In the case of Lilly Ledbetter, someone left her an anonymous note.”

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The short- and long-term costs of the difference in pay between women and men in the United States – a trend that fluctuates based on ethnicity, race, geographic location, profession and age, but persistently points in the favor of men – are considerable.

The gap in earnings for the average full-time American woman results in a loss of $11,084 per year in median earnings, according to the National Women's Law Center, which released its compiled findings ahead of Equal Pay Day on April 9. Over a 40-year-period, as the gender wage gap widens over a course of a woman's career, this amount totals a cumulative $443,360.

The losses continue to follow women past their careers, as the average Social Security benefit for women over the age of 65 was about $12,700 per year, compared to $16,700 for men in 2011.

And the losses are felt more acutely for African-American and Hispanic women – who make 64 cents and 55 cents for every dollar to their white, male counterpart, respectively – as well as for lesbians and for single women without children.