Different groups differ not only over how big the gulf is but also over how to close it. AAUW advocates for the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill currently in congress that would require employers to prove that pay differences have nothing to do with gender. It would also protect workers who discuss their salaries with each other. The Independent Women's Forum, meanwhile, believes that, via the Paycheck Fairness Act, the 77-cent statistic "is being used to try to heighten government intervention in the workplace," according to Schaeffer.
Closing the pay gap would have massive financial implications for American women, but a broader discussion of pay equity may be as much about a society's philosophy as it is about bank accounts.
"Sure, teachers are paid less than engineers, for example, and women are more likely to be teachers," says Corbett. "It tends to be paid less, but is it actually less valuable? That's an important lesson we haven't really dealt with."