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Contributing More, Earning Less: The Harsh Reality for Working Women

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For many women, "having it all" means more than building a family and career. Having it all includes a healthy work/life balance, earned respect from colleagues and, of course, financial stability.

All too often, however, the societal and institutional roadblocks that create economic inequity between genders also force us to question whether this goal is even possible.

The fact is that women are becoming increasingly dominant in the American economy, where in over 60 percent of households they serve as either primary or co-breadwinners. Women are working more, earning more and assuming the lead on economic decisions in families and communities. And as a result, family incomes in middle America are growing.

Do these facts surprise you? They shouldn't. These statistics and more are outlined in a 2009 report by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress.

The role of women in the home and the office is changing; women know it and companies know it. Women are controlling more of America's purchasing power, and companies are focusing more of their marketing efforts -- and dollars -- on women, as evidenced by Stephanie Holland's she-conomy blog.

The news, however, is not all good. Women have achieved these advances despite a system that still works against them. For identical work, they continue to earn less money -- roughly 77 cents for every dollar -- than their male coworkers, according to a new report by the American Association of Women. And this wage gap begins early. Women one year out of college make almost $10,000 less than their male counterparts.

Same degrees. Same jobs. Less money.

We continue to address these two realities separately but their combination creates a stark "call to action" for women. Any discussion of having it all, from work/life balance to shattering the glass ceiling or even just "leaning in," must first acknowledge the harsh fiscal reality of the system in which women are working.

Continue this conversation at the Annual Conference for the University System of Maryland Women's Forum, to be held Friday, Nov. 15 at Towson University. Learn more about it at towson.edu/USMWFconf.

Marie Lilly is the associate director of the Center for Student Diversity at Towson University. She manages the Women's Resources Program, which focuses on building the leadership capacity of female students. She will moderate a panel discussion on The Changing Role of Women in the American Economy at the University System of Maryland Women's Forum Conference.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.