Study: Wage Gap Largest in Seattle, Pittsburgh, Buffalo

Pay gaps persist nationwide, but can legislators really close it?

A content smile on the face of a young woman working late in the office satisfied with the results of her extra efforts.

Women get paid less than men, and a solution may be a long way off.

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Today is Equal Pay Day 2013, and if recent trends continue, equal pay advocates will observe it a little earlier next year...and perhaps, eventually, it will wink out of existence altogether. The observance was created to illustrate the gap between men's and women's pay in the U.S. by showing how far into 2013 a full-time, full-year working woman would have to work in order to earn what a comparable man earned in 2012, as measured by median pay.

[READ: It's Equal Pay Day, But Still No Paycheck Fairness Act]

Median annual earnings for a full-time, full-year working woman in the U.S. are 77 percent of what men earn, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, a group that advocates for fair pay. That gap varies from place to place, however. A new study from the organization finds the gap is considerably wider in Seattle and much diminished in Los Angeles.

Below, the 11 U.S. metro areas with the largest wage gaps:

Metro Area Women's Pay as a % of Men's
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash. 73%
Pittsburgh, Pa. 73
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y. 73
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich. 74
St. Louis, Mo. 75
Salt Lake City, Utah 75
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, S.C. 76
New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La. 76
Birmingham-Hoover, Ala. 76
Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind. 76
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va. 76

The pay gap is even wider in some parts of the country. Women in Wyoming make 67 cents on the dollar of what men earn. The figure is 69 cents in Louisiana and Utah, and in West Virginia, it's 70.

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Meanwhile, the situation in some metro areas is much more equal. Women in Los Angeles earn 92 percent of what men earn, according to NPWF. Below, a list of the 12 metro areas with the smallest wage gap.

Metro Area Women's Pay as a % of Men's
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana 92%
Las Vegas-Paradise 87
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach 86
San Antonio-New Braunfels 85
Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin 85
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale 85
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island 85
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 85
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 84
Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville 84
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont 84
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos 84

But what to do with this information? The NWPF says the data are a wake-up call that pay fairness is still a long way off for women in every city and state.

"The point we're trying to make here is there's a significant wage gap no matter where you're at in the country," says Sarah Crawford, director of workplace fairness at NWPF. She believes passing the Paycheck Fairness Act would help to solve the problem of wage gaps. The act would make it illegal for employers to punish workers for discussing pay with each other, among other things.

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Still, that law wouldn't change some of the factors that contribute to the wage gap. Women are less likely than men to go into some high-paying fields, like engineering or computer science, for example. Women also are far more likely than men to take time off-mid-career to spend time with their children, and they tend to work shorter work weeks than men, as well.

Those factors account for much of the wage gap, but not all. A 2009 study prepared for the Labor Department found that when factors like hours worked, occupation, job title, and experience were taken into account, women earned around 94 percent of what men earned.

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