Missouri's 2nd Congressional District has the largest gender pay gap of the state's nine congressional districts. A woman in Republican Todd Akin's West County-St. Charles County district who works full time is paid about 68 cents for every dollar paid to her male counterparts.
It's even worse across the river in Illinois' 12th Congressional District, represented by Democrat Jerry Costello of Belleville. It's among the worst 10 congressional districts in the nation for pay inequality. Women there are paid 67 cents for every buck a man gets paid there.
The national average is 77 cents paid to women for every dollar paid to men.
The data come from the National Partnership for Women & Families, which studied the gender pay gap for all 435 congressional districts in the country. In 423 of them — 97 percent — women are paid less than men.
It doesn't seem to matter whether a district has a Republican or Democrat representative in the U.S. House. Gender pay discrimination recognizes no party lines.
"Decades of research shows a gender gap in pay even after factors like the kind of work performed and qualifications (education and experience) are taken into account," Pamela Coukos, a senior program adviser in the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, writes in a study called "Myth Busting the Pay Gap."
"These studies consistently conclude that discrimination is the best explanation of the remaining difference in pay," she noted. "No matter how you slice the data, pay discrimination is a real and persistent problem that continues to shortchange American women and their families."
That Mr. Akin's district has a larger gender pay gap than the other eight districts in Missouri has nothing to with Mr. Akin and everything to do with the women who live in that district and the failure of Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. The same for women in Mr. Costello's district.
Ms. Coukos' report says that the gap for women with advanced degrees, corporate positions and high-paying, high-skill jobs is as significant as the gap for women with lesser qualifications. She said a study of newly trained doctors showed a gender-based disparity of nearly $17,000 in 2008.
Statewide in Missouri, the annual median pay for women who work full time is $33,865 compared to $43,146 for men. In Illinois, those figures are $39,150 for women and $50,746 for men.
Tired explanations like women don't need to earn as much as men because it's just pin money for them, or that women are working outside their homes so families can have plusher lifestyles, long ago ran out of steam.
Most women work because they need to. Half the women in the country work outside the home, and they make up half the country's work force. They also head 25 percent of families in the country with children.
It is time — nearly 50 years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act — for equal pay for equal work to become more than a slogan.