I was just shy of a year old when President John F. Kennedy signed legislation designed to "prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers. In 1963, women earned 59 cents for every $1 compared to men. Today it's 77 cents. A decent increase, but not enough for those who believe that more legislation (the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced and shot down at least eight times) is needed to fully close the gap.

Whether or not women are deliberately paid less is heatedly debated. Those who say a gap is inevitable because women gravitate toward lower-paying careers and move in and out of the workforce to raise children or care for aging parents claim the difference is about 5 centsOthers say that even after accounting for such factors there's an inexplicable but persistent gap.

I'm not writing this because I feel cheated. I may be, but as a private-sector employee I'd have to work hard to find out. Finding the compensation for managerial public works jobs, on the other hand, is easy because the salary range is always included.

That's why comments by several of our annual salary survey participants caught our attention. They say that they and other women in their department make less than male counterparts doing comparable work. Is that possible? If so, how does it happen?

E-mail your thoughts to me at sjohnston@hanleywood.com.