Caroline Fayard, one of three declared Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated later this year by David Vitter, pledged Tuesday to only take 65 percent of her salary if elected, in an attempt to stand in solidarity with working women of Louisiana, she says.

Women in Louisiana earn only 65.3 percent of what their male counterparts bring home each year, making the state the worst in the country for wage equality, according to a report issued yearly by the National Partnership for Women & Families.

“I firmly believe you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is,” Fayard said during her announcement Tuesday.

The median annual pay for a woman who holds a full-time, year-round job in the Pelican State is $31,586, according to the report, while median annual pay for a man who holds a full-time, year-round job is $48,382.

The difference amounts to an annual wage gap of $16,796 - a discrepancy that can be even larger for women of color.

African American women, for example, are paid 48 cents to the dollar and Latinas are paid 51 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

Putting the statistics together, Louisiana women who are employed full time lose a combined total of nearly $11 billion every year due to the wage gap, according to Fayard and the report. Fayard added that the discrepancy contributes to Louisiana’s ranking of 49th nationally in employment and earnings.

“Working mothers in Louisiana pay the same for a gallon of milk as everyone else. Our daughters pay the same for a gallon of gas as our sons,” Fayard said in a press release Tuesday. “Our economy and families will be stronger when Congress does the right thing by working women.”

[jump] As part of her pledge, announced at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, Fayard said she would donate the other 35 percent of her salary to charities supporting women and families.

The National Partnership for Women and Families estimated that if the working wage gap were eliminated in Louisiana, where 38 percent of families headed by women exist in poverty, the families could get nearly three years’ worth of food, 14 more months of mortgage or utilities or 21 more months of rent with the difference.

The gender wage gap doesn’t just affect Louisiana. Nationally, women make on average 79 percent of what men do. In 31 states, women are paid at least 20 cents less than men for every dollar earned.

Statistics also found that mothers are more affected by the wage gap than other women. Although mothers are primary or sole breadwinners in nearly 40 percent of families, 2013 data showed single mothers with full-time, year-round jobs are paid just 58 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.

As part of her campaign, Fayard is pushing for the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation first introduced in the Senate in 2013.

The law would address gender pay gaps in all 50 states by adding procedural protections to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as well as to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the new law would make “critical changes” to current law by requiring employees to demonstrate wage differentials on factors other than sex.

The law would also help prevent retaliation against women inquiring about or asking for fare wages, and strengthen penalties for equal pay violations.

Earlier this month, despite support from Gov. John Bel Edwards, a committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives killed a bill that would require businesses to pay women and men equally who perform the same work.

In a statement released after the vote, Edwards said that the actions of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee amounted to a “true disservice” for women in Louisiana.

"Actions speak louder than words, and the time has come to stop talking about family values and start making decisions that actually value families,” Edwards said. (The governor has endorsed another Democrat, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, in the Senate race.)

Fayard, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2010, has been described as an underdog candidate in the crowded upcoming race. In addition to pushing for women’s equality, the candidate has touted her experience as a negotiator. To that end, she’s pointed to deals she helped make with BP following the oil disaster, which resulted in $8 billion in settlements.

As part of her pledge, announced to a group of businesswomen and potential constituents during a luncheon at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in Treme, Fayard said she would the other 35 percent of her salary to charities supporting women and families.

Campaign strategist Novella Smith also spoke about pay inequality when introducing Fayard to guests, who included former WWL-TV anchor Angela Hill and a manager from the New Orleans Better Business Bureau.

Smith noted that when the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed, women in Louisiana made 59 cents for every dollar taken home by men. In other words, over the last half-century women have only gained six cents on the dollar.

“That is mindboggling,” Smith said. “This affects our daughters, our mothers and our sisters. We have to ask the men in our lives why they think this is OK.”

She also bemoaned a “politics as usual” state of affairs amongst Louisiana lawmakers, noting that the state’s recently failed equal pay bill didn’t even make it out of legislative committee.

“We can’t afford benchwarmers anymore, ladies,” Fayard said. “We’ve got to get a change.”