NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Women have nearly achieved pay parity with men as the gap on hourly wages has shrunk, but obstacles remain to narrow it even further.

The current pay gap for hourly workers is now 16 cents, compared to 36 cents from 1980. While women have made advancements as they progress in their career paths, their earnings compared to men start to decline even if they began on an equal footing.

Millennial women are marking the beginning of their careers at nearly pay equality with men, but maintaining a narrow gap is surprisingly unpredictable, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 2,002 adults, including 810 Millennials (adults ages 18 to 32).

While women who entered the workforce since 1980 have made headway in closing the pay gap, various issues still play a factor in why the pay is still not equal and remains an issue.

Barriers still persist for Millennial women despite the fact that they have more education than their foremothers and Millennial men. A majority of them believe they will be paid less than their male counterparts even if they have the same job and believe it remains more difficult to reach the executive level especially if they choose to be mothers.

Despite the great strides that have occurred for women advancing their careers, 75% of Millennial women said the U.S. needs to work on instilling additional changes to reach gender equality while only 57% of Millennial men believe the same, Pew Research found in a recent survey. The good news is that only 15% of young women said they have experienced discrimination at the workplace because of their gender. Evening the playing field remains a problem and is disheartening, said Nancy Mellard, executive vice president and general counsel for CBIZ, a business services provider.

"Things have not improved and there is still a gap," she said. "The problem is that we are still talking about the same problems from several decades ago and we are not solving them."

While women ages 25 to 34 are the first group in recent history to begin their careers with salaries nearly equal to their male counterparts or 93%, the parity dissipates during their career when additional responsibilities arise, according to the Pew Research analysis from census data.

Women now account for 47% of the work force in 2012, an increase from 43% in 1980 while the number of men employed have declined from 78% in 1980 to 70% in 2012.

The increase in salaries and number of employed women are largely due to their educational gains with 38% of older Millennial women or those aged 25 to 32 who received a bachelor's degree compared to 31% of men. Even with the younger Millennial women or those who are 18 to 24 years old, 45% of women are enrolled in a college or university while there are 38% of men in 2012, the research shows.