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Are women paid as much as men?

By Alison Bologna

Do you think women make less money than men?

It's a controversial topic in the workplace and at a hotly contested one. At least one local woman thinks she's been unfairly treated but wants to hide her identity because she fears retaliation.

"I am completely confident that I'm a victim," the woman said.

The woman said she's convinced she earns less than her male colleagues at work, and even though she doesn't want you to know who she is, she wants you to hear her story.

"This is how I know. When you find out after you're hired and all your male peers are at a pay grade that is three levels above you, you know you're under paid," she said.

And she's not alone. It's 2012 and it appears women state-to-state, are earning less than men.

In one of the presidential debates, Mitt Romney was quoted as saying, "I went to a number of women's groups, and they said can you help us find folks, and they brought us whole binders full of women. Those women convinced they were earning less than their male counterparts."

The question remains whether women are sought after for competitive jobs? And if they land them, are they being paid fairly?

The National Partnership for Women and Families analyzed U.S. Census bureau data and found the median yearly pay for women in Rhode Island is $7,430 less than the median yearly pay for Rhode Island men.

That means women are paid 85 cents compared to $1 for men. And in terms of national numbers, according to the census data, that figure drops to 77 cents.

"It's extremely upsetting and actually embarrassing and I feel guilty that I allowed myself to get into that situation," said one woman.

A first of its kind report was released in Rhode Island. It comprises a survey of 22 of the largest Rhode Island non-profits and for-profit businesses and it measured how often they conduct wage equality audits measuring for inequities in compensation between men and women at the same level or positions.

According to the report, 31 percent of the for-profit companies surveyed reported that they never have conducted a wage equity audit. But another 31 percent said they do conduct an equity audit on an annual basis.

On the non-profit side, all of the companies surveyed reported doing these audits but only 14 percent of them do it on an annual basis.

So what should a woman do if she feels she's being treated unfairly?

According to Susan Colantuono, CEO and founder of Leading Women, a woman should get the costs and do their homework. They should not be afraid to negotiate and don't take the first offer.

"As a matter of fact one of the women on our committee said there's always at least $2K on the table, if we don't ask we don't get," she said.

The Pay Check Fairness Act passed in the last two congresses but fell short in the senate two years ago and again became blocked this past June when reintroduced.

These women will tell you, the act needs to pass to close loopholes in the equal pay act. It affects everyone.

"We've been struggling economically. Many states have but this is part of the solution making sure that women have equal wages," said Marcia Cone, CEO Women's Fund Rhode Island.

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