The difference between what men and women earn is smaller in the District and Maryland than nearly anywhere else in the United States, though the gender pay gap is far wider in Virginia.
Full-time working women in D.C. earn 90 cents for every dollar earned by men, 3 cents better than in Vermont, the next-closest jurisdiction, according to census data compiled by the American Association of University Women. Maryland isn't far behind, placing third nationally with women earning 86 percent of what men make.
A large population of federal government employees and a strong union presence are big reasons why there is greater parity between what men and women make in D.C. and Maryland, said Christi Corbett, a senior researcher with the association. California, with a similar profile of public workers and labor strength, is fifth on the list.
"The pay gap tends to be a lot less in the public sector. That's why we speculate the pay gap is lowest in D.C.," Corbett said. "It's just more clear how much a person is paid for that particular job. A lot of times in the private sector it's not that clear for employees and it's harder to know if it's fair or not."
|Pay for full-time female workers for every $1 men earn by state|
|1. D.C. -- 90 cents for every $1|
|a man earns|
|2. Vermont -- 87 cents|
|3. Maryland -- 86 cents|
|4. Nevada -- 85 cents|
|5. California -- 85 cents|
|29. Virginia -- 78 cents|
|National average -- 77 cents|
Another factor in the District is the Human Rights Act, which allows the city to prosecute discrimination in the workplace and gives workers who have been treated unfairly an outlet to air grievances, said Elliot Imse with the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
Virginia, also home to thousands of federal workers, ranks 29th in pay equity, with women earning 78 cents for every dollar men earn. And while D.C. and Maryland have seen the wage gap shrink since 2009, it remained wider in the Old Dominion. Men and women also earn more in the District and Maryland than in Virginia, a right-to-work state.
Nationally, women earn an average of 77 cents for every dollar men are paid.
Paul Logan, spokesman for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, said the state recognizes that too few female-owned business are earning state contracts and the administration has implemented strategies to reduce those barriers. Most recently, investment in female-owned businesses grew by 21 percent.
"Virginia now utilizes women-owned businesses at record-high dollar values," Logan said.
But while Virginia lags in overall pay equity, the unemployment rate for women in the Old Dominion is significantly lower than in the District, according to the National Women's Law Center.
Minority women also fare better in Virginia than the rest of the region. Hispanic women earn 56 cents for every dollar a white man earns in Virginia, but only 46 cents per dollar in Maryland and 41 cents in D.C.
Black women earn 67 percent of what white men make in Maryland, 59 percent in Virginia and 51 percent in D.C.