Nightly News   |  January 14, 2014

Combatting the Persistent Pay Gap Between Men and Women

NBC News’ Maria Shriver presented her report on Women and America to President Obama Tuesday.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> all this week across nbc news, we have special coverage of the economic status of women in the country and the pay gap that exists between the genders. a new bound document called the shriver report is getting a lot of attention, including as we mentioned a minute ago from beyonce who is among many interviewed in the report. men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters earn more. maria shriver was invited to the white house to present her report to president obama late today. she's been able to join us from there tonight. hi, maria, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. as the son of a single mother , president obama said he's very sympathetic to these issues that one in three women is living on the brink of poverty in the united states of america. and one of the main reasons is the persistent wage gap that exists between men and women .

>> can you count them?

>> eileen is a math consultant she helps teachers teach math for the fresno board of education .

>> you under a fight for equality.

>> yes.

>> if someone told you would be doing this, what would you have said?

>> i wouldn't have believed it.

>> rizzo is the first in her family to go do college, and has two masters degrees. but one day a new male colleague revealed his starting salaries with a nearly $12,000 more than she was making. after four years in the same position.

>> my heart dropped. i was -- my mind was just whirling and thinking, how did this happen.

>> she was told that starting salary was based on someone's previous pay. outraged, rizzo joined the advocacy group to help her fight.

>> the thought is, i'll never catch up.

>> reporter: on average, women make 77 cents to every man's dollar. closing the wage gap would cut the poverty rate for working women in half. adding close to a half a trillion to the economy.

>> why do you think the wage gap still exists today?

>> unconscious bias is a huge part of it.

>> the city of boston intends to be the first city in america to pay men and women equally.

>> women are penalized when they try to negotiate for pay. that holds women back.

>> it's time to pass the paycheck fairness act.

>> while president obama has pledged to fix the problem, congress has been slow to respond. and eileen rizzo feels she has no choice but to take her fight to the court. recently she won the right to sue her employer. the fresno county office of education declined to comment to nbc news, but in a letter they sent to rizzo , they said they're hiring formula had not resulted in a disproportionate impact on gender. undeterred, rizzo says her fight is about the future of her daughters.

>> are you proud of your mom?

>> yes.

>> i'm passionate about what i do and i love it. and i had to decide i wanted to see it through, because i wanted the world to be different for my daughters.

>> reporter: president obama told me he would like the issues that are in this report to inform a summit that he wants to hold here at the white house in the spring on working families .

>> maria shriver , having presented her namesake findings to the president at the white house late today. thanks for being with us tonight.