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How bad is the gender pay gap?

Despite decades-old laws and campaigns to raise awareness, little has happened to improve the pay gap between genders and among races. It doesn't seem to matter whether researchers look at high-ranking executives or food services employees, a significant difference remains between what a woman earns for every dollar a man earns in the same position.

You may feel grateful to have your position and to be working in a job you enjoy. If your industry has many qualified workers vying for a few promising positions, simply receiving an offer of employment may have been enough to prevent you from complaining that your salary is lower than someone else hired at the same time. However, even a few percent difference can add up over the years of a career.

Equal work, equal pay?

Even with the passage of the Equal Pay Act over 50 years ago, some groups struggle with lower wages than those offered to white men. In fact, for every dollar a white man earns, a white woman earns only 80 cents. Even more stark is the contrast between men and black women, who earn about 63 cents per dollar, and Hispanic women, who take home just over half of what a man earns. Over time, these women may earn hundreds of thousands less than men in the same position.

Your company may not pay you 50 percent or even 30 percent less than your male colleagues, but the smallest discrepancy can be a profound loss if you remain with a company until retirement. In fact, one study showed that a mere 1.9 percent difference in salaries means that a woman may earn an overall $66,104 less than her male counterparts when you consider cost of living raises and retirement contributions based on salaries and taxes. A woman earning 2.9 percent less may miss out on over $500,000.

Options when faced with discrimination

You may feel that starting salary and raises are only a portion of the inequality in your workplace. Other areas in which businesses may have a deep-seated culture of sex discrimination include leadership roles, opportunities for advancement and benefits. If you feel your company is discriminating against you because of your sex or other protected status, you have a right to learn about your options.

California and federal laws protect you from discrimination in the workplace. You may benefit from discussing your situation with an employment law attorney.

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