It\u2019s hard to deny the fact that the gap between men and women\u2019s wages, known as the \u201cgender wage gap\u201d, is real. Study after study verifies its existence, and even worse, the reality that the disparity has barely budged over the last decade.\r\n\r\nWhile the severity of the wage gap may ebb and flow based on various, unique factors, it still lurks around every workplace corner. One recent study from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) showed that the wage differs regionally (women earned 91% of what men earned in Washington D.C. in 2013, but only 66% in Louisiana). Further, minority women in all occupations experienced a more severe gap \u2013 Hispanic women earned only 54% of what Caucasian men earned in 2013).\r\n\r\nTo make matters worse, the wage gap grows with age. Women earn around 90% of men\u2019s earnings until age 35, but it drops off from there.\r\n\r\nA study from the Pew Research Center backs up the ideas proved by AAUW, adding that they believe the pay gap has shrunk to a disparity of $0.16, unlike earlier years. In other words, Pew estimates that women of all ages and ethnicities are earning an average of $0.84 for each dollar a man earns.\r\n\r\nYear after year, dollar after dollar, even small sums \u2013 like a disparity of $0.16 \u2013 add up in a huge way. And those missing dollars can lead to bleak consequences not just for women, but also for their families.\r\nThe Rise of the Female Breadwinner \u2013 Is It All Good News?\r\nStill, many of the statistics around the gender wage gap contradict. At a time when female employees are fighting for equal paychecks, you might think that the number of households with a female breadwinner is decreasing. However, Pew Research Center data actually shows that the number of female breadwinners is on the rise. While a female breadwinner led 11% of households with children under age 18 in 1960, over 40% of households have a female breadwinner today.\r\n\r\nBut don\u2019t let the numbers fool you. Pew points out, these \u201cbreadwinning moms\u201d are made up of two distinct groups. While 37% are married moms who earn more than their husbands, the other 63% are single mom breadwinners because they have no choice. That\u2019s hardly something to celebrate.\r\n\r\nFurther, the term \u201cbreadwinner\u201d is a deceiving one, implying a high income. According to Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It, households with a female breadwinner aren\u2019t spared from the effects of the gender wage gap more than anyone else. Why? Because female breadwinning isn\u2019t always intentional.\r\n\r\n\u201cDad loses his job, and Mom is suddenly the breadwinner, but because she didn\u2019t plan on that, she hasn\u2019t built up her career with the goal of earning the money necessary to support her family well on her own,\u201d explains Vanderkam. \u201cJust because a woman is a breadwinner doesn\u2019t mean she\u2019s earning a lot. These are two separate issues.\u201d\r\nDown with the Wage Gap: The Rise of the High-Earning Woman\r\nDark and dreary statistics aside, a certain percentage of women are earning higher incomes than ever before \u2013 and that fact should be celebrated. As Pew notes, the median total family income of married female breadwinners was nearly $80,000 in 2011, well above the median household income of around $57,000.\r\n\r\nMany experts attribute the rise in female earnings and female breadwinners not just to societal factors, but also to female educational attainment. And when you look at the numbers, it\u2019s easy to see why. As the Center for American Progress notes, women make up just 50.8% of the population, yet they earn:\r\n\r\n\u2022 60 percent of all Bachelor\u2019s degrees\r\n\u2022 60 percent of all Master\u2019s degrees\r\n\u2022 47 percent of Law degrees\r\n\u2022 44 percent of Master\u2019s degrees in Business and Management\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, women are 47%of the workforce, yet make up 59% of the college-educated, entry-level workers.\r\n\r\nWith numbers like that on the table, it\u2019s no wonder that the wage gap is closing at a faster rate for younger women. These high-earning women in question are raising the bar and blazing trails. Hopefully, women after them will keep pushing forward until equal pay is an issue of the past.\r\nWhy Are Some Women Earning More?\r\nStill, in a nation where women\u2019s wages are being suppressed, it\u2019s interesting to see what steps some take to earn more than the national average. Higher education plays a role, but is there something else?\r\n\r\nVanderkam interviewed high-earning women in her new book to learn what really set them apart. For her study, she focused on women earning over $100,000, with at least one child at home. Here\u2019s what she found:\r\n\r\n\u201cThe women in my study, who all earned >$100,000, worked slightly longer hours than average. They put in (on average) 44 hours a week,\u201d notes Vanderkam.\r\n\r\nCompare that to the average mom working a full-time job, and you\u2019ll see the difference. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures say the average working mother puts in 35-37 hours per week and makes less than $40,000 annually.\r\n\r\nBut hours worked isn\u2019t the only significant factor Vanderkam found. Close to half of interviewees worked \u201csplit shifts\u201d in order to spend more time with their families. They\u2019d leave work at a reasonable time, then do more work after putting the kids to bed.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey traded off work time for what could be TV time, rather than work time for kid time,\u201d explains Vanderkam.\r\n\r\nAccording to Vanderkam, high-earning women who manage to \u201chave it all\u201d are ones who find innovative ways to put in more hours without compromising family time.\r\n\r\n\u201cWomen massively limit their earning power by not considering jobs that would require those few extra hours,\u201d she said. And in a today\u2019s competitive labor those extra hours could mean the difference between getting ahead \u2013 or not.\r\nThe Fight for Equal Pay Must Continue\r\nThat\u2019s all good advice indeed, but more needs to be done to ensure fair pay in the richest country in the world. Women cannot change enough to solve the gender wage gap, nor should they. Instead, systemic changes need to be made to fix pay inequality on a national level.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s high time that solutions are brought forward and implemented. Equal pay isn\u2019t just a women\u2019s issue; it\u2019s a family issue. When women aren\u2019t paid what they\u2019re worth, everyone hurts.\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s part of the reason President Barack Obama signed two executive orders on Equal Pay Day 2014. The first prohibits retaliation against contractor employees who discuss salary with their co-workers, and the second calls on the U.S. Department of Labor to start collecting wage data, including the race and sex of employees, from federal contractors.\r\n\r\nTo bring the wage gap to a close for good, the AAUW aims to secure congressional action on the following pieces of legislation too:\r\n\r\n\u2022 Paycheck Fairness Act: Building on the Equal Pay Act, which hasn\u2019t been updated since 1963, the PFA would \u201cenact stronger incentives for employers to follow the law, enhance federal enforcement efforts, and prohibit retaliation against workers asking about wage practices.\u201d\r\n\u2022 Fair Pay Act: According to the AAUW, the Fair Pay Act would \u201crequire employers to provide equal pay for work of equal value, whether or not the jobs are the same.\u201d Other goals of this legislation include \u201cbanning retaliation, requiring employers to file wage information with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, eliminating the gag rule on wage disclosure, and prohibiting employers from reducing wages to comply with pay equity requirements.\u201d\r\n\r\nFighting for legislation that will help close the gender wage gap isn\u2019t the only way women can work towards financial equality. By learning more about creating additional capital through investing tools like Personal Capital\u2019s, women are another step closer to a more fair financial life.\r\n\r\nWe can\u2019t solve the wage gap on our own; we need everyone, men included, to get on board with us.\r\n\r\nLearn more about Pew Research Center\u2019s study here, and visit Personal Capital today to check out helpful investing tools.