Women in Louisiana face many obstacles, the most glaring being the largest pay gaps in the country, the state's first lady, Donna Edwards, said Tuesday.

"Women in Louisiana earn just 66 percent of what men earn. For women of color, the numbers are even worse, 49 percent for African-American women and 52 percent for Hispanic women. I'm going to stop here for a second because it infuriates me a little bit when people say, 'That's not true.' It's absolutely true," Edwards said in kicking off Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week.

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One of her nieces, who graduated with a degree in the exact area her employer wanted and even had experience in that field, replaced a man who didn't have the same educational background or any experience when he started, Edwards said. After taking the job, her niece discovered she was being paid 60 percent of what her predecessor made. 

Edwards said women need to support one another, and one way they can do that is by supporting legislation for equal pay when the issue comes up during the next Legislative session. 

Dima Ghawi, motivational speaker, leadership coach and author, discussed how women can better realize their value by strengthening their personal brand.

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Ghawi took the audience through several exercises to demonstrate the power of branding, how airlines, soft drinks and toothpastes focus and deliver carefully crafted messages over and over to establish associations with those words.

People need to do the same thing in business, create a brand that differentiates you from everyone else, Ghawi said. In order to do that, women, or men for that matter, have to figure out what makes them unique and why someone should hire them.

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Those things are a person's brand, Ghawi said. Once a person knows their brand, they can include it in marketing materials, resumé, blog, website, etc.

"So we need to learn our brand, and then we need to present it to the world so we can have the world know how amazing we are," Ghawi said.

When a person understands their brand and their value, they can break the wage gap, Ghawi said. They're no longer OK with being paid less than what they're worth, and they can shatter the glass ceiling.

Ghawi said there are seven steps in personal branding: define your value/differentiate yourself; align your brand with market demands; keep your marketing materials current; promote your brand; request feedback to understand what others think about you; protect your brand and make sure those associated with your brand, whether businesses or people, share your values; and evolve your brand.

Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.