OKLAHOMA CITY - New numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics out Tuesday, show a startling difference in pay among men and women in Oklahoma. Women getting paid 77-cents for every dollar one of their male counterparts make.

“When we compare apples to apples, or studies that have looked at lawyers or physicians, very well educated profession of people with same degrees or comparable credentials we see that pay gap exist,” Danielle Ezell, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition said.

Over the past 18 years, Oklahoma has stayed well below the national average with very few exceptions, and in just the last three years a sharp trend of declining wages driving men and women in the workplace further apart.

Experts say a variety of reasons cause the gap - women not negotiating the same as men or having lower salaries follow them from job to job. But as much as 40 percent of the wage gap is unexplained by employers, causing critics to cry gender bias.

“Inherently we need to make our state an equal playing field for men versus women,” Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Mustang) said.

Loveless authored a bill last session that would let the department of labor punish companies for unequal pay. That failed, but he plans to bring another one up this year with strong bipartisan support.

“This is something we have to do just on the face of, when you, you shouldn't be penalized just for who you are,” Loveless said.