The short answer to that question is very. Forbes estimates that because of the wage gap and other complications, a woman starting her career now will earn an average of $430,480 less than a male counterpart over a 40-year career. That number only reflects the wages lost for white women; women of color stand to lose much more. African American women will earn $877,480 less over 40 years, Native American women will lose $883,040, and Latina women miss out on $1,007,080 over their careers.
There’s no doubt that it’s more expensive to be female, and now a new study of the wage gap by the National Women’s Law Center has identified proof that the gap exists, and that it cannot be ignored. The study looked at both the national wage gap and analyzed it state by state. Louisiana clocked in as the state where women on average lose the most money: $671,840 less than male workers. Florida, the “best” state, saw a gap of $248,120. Just in Washington, D.C., African American women will lose $1.6 million over their lifetimes. Native American women? $1.78 million.
“In general, you’ll see bigger wage gaps in states that have more occupational segregation. If we look at states with some of the largest wage gaps—West Virginia, North Dakota, Wyoming, Louisiana—those are the states that have either a lot of mining or oil and gas operations, jobs that are pretty high-paid and almost all men’s jobs, and I suspect that’s what we see driving the wage gap,” explained Emily Martin, general counsel and vice president for workplace justice at NWLC. States with lower minimum wages also see a higher gap between male and female earners.
Generally, women only earn about 78% of what men make. And it isn’t just in occupational wages that women lose. A December 2015 study of consumer products, marketed with male and female versions, found that women’s products cost about 7% more than men’s. That means that women pay close to $1,351 a year in extra costs for the same goods and services men get.
Additionally, women pay more for things like mortgages, haircare and grooming, cars, and clothing.
Some states, like California, are pushing for equal-pay legislation. That’s a start, but a lot more work and awareness must be reached before the wage gap is adequately addressed and rectified.