What's the individual damage from gender inequality in the workplace? For the average U.S. woman it’s more than $430,000 over the course of her career, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, a non-profit advocacy group.
The gender pay-gap issue has come to the fore following criticism from President Barack Obama that women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and demands by actresses including Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and top women's soccer players for equal wages to their male counterparts. Some states have intervened: California lawmakers last year approved legislation mandating that women and men earn the same amount for similar work.
"We're in a moment where women are making up an increasing part of the workforce and there's a firm recognition that their salaries matter to themselves, but also to their families' economic security," Fatima Goss Graves, a senior vice president at NWLC, said by phone. "We've seen very prominent figures call attention to the wage gap and that's so critical because it highlights no industry is immune to it."
For the working women in America, race is also a factor in pay disparity, and to a lesser extent where they live. The gap is widest for African-American and Latino women in the nation’s capital, Washington, where the gap is $1.6 million to $1.8 million over a four-decade career, compared with a white, non-Hispanic male wage-earner.
"They are dealing with the double barriers of race and gender discrimination,'' Graves said. ''And some of it is the concentration of women of color in some of the lowest-paid fields. They still make up a tiny percentage of workers in some of the higher-paid fields."
By state, female workers in Louisiana face the highest discrepancy—$671,840—while those in Florida are the least worse-off with losses of $248,120, according to the study. On average across the country, the wage gap "hasn't budged for nearly a decade," according to a statement from NWLC. The study was released ahead of Equal Pay Day on April 12.
The NWLC analysis was based on U.S. Census Bureau data from full-time, year-round workers, multiplied by 40 years. The figures haven’t been adjusted for inflation. The state data are derived from five-year annual average results in the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.