Recently the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2012 gender wage gap numbers. And guess what, the wage gap still stands at 23 cents. That means a woman working full time, year-round still typically takes home 77 cents for every dollar a man takes home. The gap is even worse for women of color.

This isn't the first year the wage gap has refused to budge. Since 2002, the gap has stubbornly hovered right around 23 cents and it feels like the wage gap will never close.

Some don't care if these numbers play out like a broken record year after year. They would rather blame the difference in men's and women's pay on individual choices. If only that were true. When you account for all measurable decisions that might influence a person's paycheck - college, major, occupation, industry, work hours, you name it - the wage gap is still there.

Last year, AAUW (American Association of University Women) did a study that looked at the earnings of women and men just one year out of college, a time when few women or men are making choices about having children, taking care of elderly parents, or working fewer hours. Taking into account all the factors that have been shown to affect pay, the report found that women are paid an unexplained 6.6 percent less than men doing the exact same work. If you do the math, you'll find that 6.6 percent of an average man's earning one year out of college comes to over $2,800.00.

Whether they are one year out of college or 40 years in the workplace, women can work as hard as they want. They can negotiate aggressively and even pursue careers in lucrative industries like information technology. The research shows they are still likely to be paid less just because they're women.

There is something we can do about the wage gap. For two years, the U.S. Department of Labor has been saying it will develop a new tool to collect information on salaries, wages, and other benefits for employees of federal contractors. This tool is essential to giving workers and employers the information they need to end pay discrimination, and it will give the Department of Labor the information it needs to make sure companies that are receiving our tax dollars are following the law.

— Marjean Harris, co-president of Newton AAUW and Christine Downey-Schmidt, co-president of Newton AAUW