photo: Marissa Pina, Vivala, iStock

It could take more than four decades for women to be paid the same living wages as men, according to some researchers. Today, women get paid 78 cents to every $1 that a man makes. Based on this wage gap, the average woman will lose about $430,480 over the course of a 40-year career, according to the National Women’s Law Center

But the wage gap is strikingly worse for women of color, and in particular, Latinas. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women are paid 65 cents for every dollar a white man is paid; black women are paid 64 cents to every dollar; and American Indian or Alaskan women are paid 59 cents per dollar. Meanwhile, Latinas are paid just 54 cents of what white men are paid per dollar, the lowest of any minority group in America. That equals a lifetime loss of about $1 million, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

“That’s a real issue that deserves attention,” said Emily Martin, NWLC’s Vice President for Workplace Justice.

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Martin said one of the principal factors contributing to the wage gap among women of color is “occupational segregation.” Women, in particular Latinas and African American women, are under-represented in many of the highest wage occupations in the country, while the biggest representation of women of color is among minimum wage workers. This widens the wage gap significantly.

“The different jobs are part of what drives the wage gap and part of this underlying inequality,” she said.

Though Martin said the gender wage gap varies in different regions, some of the states with the largest wage gaps are states where occupational segregation is extremely significant.

Michigan, West Virginia, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Louisiana have the largest wage gaps in the country, with lifetime wage gaps over $500,000, according to the law center. At $248,120, Florida is believed to have the smallest lifetime wage gap in the U.S.

Campaigns for equal pay have touched even Hollywood, with many actresses speaking up for better wages.

“If a woman does the same job as a man, she should be paid the same amount of money. She just should. That’s just the way the world should work. What are you telling your daughter when she grows up? ‘You've got to just understand that you’re a girl. You have a vagina, so that’s not as valuable.’ What are you telling her?” Viola Davis told Mashable.

Salma Hayek weighed in during Variety's Power of Women luncheon last fall.

"This is a problem that is in every single industry," Hayek said. "If you have the same capacities and you are doing the same job, it is criminal not to pay the same salary."

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And Jennifer Lawrence made headlines for several weeks after she penned a sincere essay for Lena Dunham's newsletter in which she discussed the wage gap in Hollywood and the difficulties she's had in speaking up in the industry.

“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fuck that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard,” she wrote.

Significant cultural factors have also led to women of color being paid less than their counterparts, according to Tracy Sturdivant, co-founder and co-director of Make it Work. The New York-based organization is a campaign advocating for greater economic security for working women, men and families.



“Culturally, you’re not taught to negotiate,” she said. “Women are often taught that it’s not polite to talk about money, nor should you go in and advocate for yourself.”

The organization depicts this issue in a video titled “Lemonade Stand,” in which several children of different races — one white boy and three little girls  — operate a lemonade stand but are paid different amounts for the lemonade they sell. Though peppered with humor, the video is blunt and eye-opening.

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“Stop being polite. Start asking questions,” it says in the last frame.

Sturdivant also said that a lack of transparency in the workplace has allowed the wage gap to persist for so long because women often don’t have anything to compare their salaries to. The key is “Talking about it, advocating for yourself and putting elected officials in place who are going to be champions on this issue,” she said.

Millennials aren’t exempt from this problem, according to advocates. “Millennials don’t necessarily believe that the pay gap exists. They believe they’re gong to be treated fairly when they go into the workplace. That’s not really the case,” said Sturdivant.

Until then, the struggle for equal pay continues.