There's A Shop Trying To Fix The Gender Pay Gap (So We Spoke To The Founder)
The Debrief: American graphic designer Elana Schlenker wanted to bring home the true real cost of the pay gap
Ever looked around the office and wondered how much more the guy next to you earns? The pay gap is a serious problem all over the world, but it can be kind of difficult to perceive just how bad it can be – after all, it’s not like you can sneakily read your coworker’s payslips without him knowing. (Although thanks to our mates at Grazia, companies that hire more than 250 people now have to publish the wages of male and female employees for total transparency.)
American graphic designer Elana Schlenker wanted to bring home the true real cost of the pay gap: by opening a shop that charges women less according to how little they make compared to their male counterparts. At 76<100, her pop-up store in Pittsburgh, Elana charges women 76 per cent of the price of any item. Dudes need to pony up the cash for the full retail cost.
The discount is linked specifically to the pay gap in Pennsylvania, where women make 76 cents to every dollar a man makes. It’s a powerfully simple statement that makes you realise how income inequality can affect you IRL.
‘It wasn't my plan to get involved as an activist,’ Elana tells me. ‘However, I've read article after article about the wage gap and the ways in which women are perceived (and undervalued) in the workplace, and when I had the idea to do a shop with this “pay what you're paid” pricing, I felt like it could be a really positive, and fun way to approach this issue and also connect with other women whose work I admire.’
76<100 opened on National Equal Pay Day, a day set aside in the US to raise awareness of wage equality. Elana stocks products made by female artists – think handmade textiles, cute screenprinted posters and indie literature like uber-cool queer magazine Girls Like Us. There’s even a free newspaper with more info about the wage gap (“including the fact that these numbers are so much worse for women of colour”, Elana adds) that anybody can take away with them to read more.
‘I've had women bring in their children, sons send in their fathers, couples visit, and women come in independently and share their own stories around this issue,’ Elana says. ‘People are also beginning to reach out to inquire about having me come and do this where they live! It's been wonderful!’
Sadly, she’s also had to deal with some online haters who just don’t get it – but so far, she’s brushed it off. ‘There's been more extreme feedback, and lots of negative commentary about how I hate men and how I'm sexists and all that,’ she shrugs. ‘There seems to be a lot of anger around the project and a lot of people who firmly believe that the wage gap doesn't exist. That's been interesting, to say the least.’
But Elana’s got plans way beyond Pittsburgh – she wants to hit the road with her protest-themed pop-up to raise awareness of the pay gap in every single state. New Orleans is her next stop, and she’s currently asking local organisations to help fund 76<100 as part of a larger project called Less Than 100 (or <100).
But forget that, we need something like this in the UK. According to statistics agency Eurostat, we’ve got the sixth biggest pay gap between men and women in the European Union. For every pound that a British man earns, we’re only getting 80 pence. That’s not as bad as it is in Pittsburgh, but it’s still way too much – especially for a gap that shouldn’t exist at all.
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