Denise Ryan worked as a fund-raiser for 10 years. She says she will never forget how she felt when she found out how much her male counterpart was making.
"Unvalued, especially since I had an MBA, and I felt like I had more education than most of those people," Ryan says. "It made me feel like my organization had in a way kind of ripped me off," Ryan says.
Ryan is not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns 76 cents.
In 1998, the average male earned more than $35,000 a year. Over the same time, the average female earned less than $26,000 a year. The $9,000 difference between the two salaries represents 37 percent of the women's total paycheck.
North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall says the difference in pay for men and women amounts to their future. Over the course of her career, the average woman loses $250,000 to the wage gap.
"It affects that person's family. It affects them for a whole lifetime because it affects their pension, social security and their children who are in the home.
The gender pay issue is a big concern for the Federation of Business and Professional Women whose state chapter is meeting in Fayetteville this weekend. They brought their fight to Washington on Thursday for the first congressional hearing on the issue in 30 years.
"We finally have opened the door, and we are going to go through it," says BPW president Becky Pettit.
As for Ryan, she chose to go out on her own as a motivational speaker.
"When I work for myself, I can get the most that I think the market will pay for my services," Ryan says.
BPW is asking Congress to strengthen the rarely-enforced Equity Pay Act of 1963. Marshall says she would like to see this organization and other woman groups support a state study on the gender gap.