This Project Perfectly Visualizes The Pay Gap

by Eliza Castile

Do you have lofty, Leslie Knope-esque aspirations to see your face on a form of currency one day? I'm not afraid to say that I've been harboring that particular ambition since I decided I wanted to be the next Hillary Clinton as a kid — and thanks to #TheReal10, the American Association of University Women's most recent social media campaign, all my childhood ambitions have finally come true... Well, kind of. Although #TheReal10 celebrates the U.S. Treasury's announcement that they will finally put a woman's face on the $10 bill, the campaign comes with a catch: Those bills aren't actually worth the full amount. At most, your bill is worth $7.90, and depending on your ethnicity, it can dip as low as just $5.40.

So what gives? If you're at all familiar with the pay gap, chances are you recognize those numbers. On average, women are only paid 79 percent of that which white men make, and that inequality only increases for women of color. In light of these dismal statistics, which have actually worsened in the past year, the AAUW decided to take the Treasury's announcement as an opportunity to shift the conversation from celebration of symbolic change to discussion of actual change.

"Symbolism is important, but let's talk about what the $10 bill is actually worth to the average woman," AAUW Vice President of Government Relations Lisa Maatz tells Bustle in an interview. "We felt it was important to draw attention to that fact that the pay gaps affect all women, especially women of color and mothers."

Consequently, #TheReal10 — a play on the Treasury's #TheNew10, by the way — reflects income inequality based on the intersection of gender and ethnicity. The result is a succinct visualization of how pervasive the income gap really is.

To join in on the project, all you need is an Internet connection and a photo of yourself. Head over to #TheReal10 website, upload the photo, choose your ethnicity, and voila! You have your very own bill.

As you can see above, I make $7.80 for every $10 that a white man makes — and I'm lucky to be making that much. According to the AAUW website, black women make just $6.30, while American Indian and Hispanic or Latina women make a dismal $5.50 and $5.40, respectively. Asian American women make the most, and they're still stuck at $9.00. Furthermore, there are so many other factors that #TheReal10 couldn't possibly reflect them all: Motherhood, education level, and even the state you live in all affect how your income measures up to that of your male coworkers.

We can't forget, of course, good ole discrimination. Even after accounting for individual choices, job tenure, and all kinds of other factors, women simply aren't paid as much as men. Is that incredibly depressing? Yup. But the more we talk about it, the more likely things are to change. Fortunately, #TheReal10 has been taking off online as women share their own versions of the $10 bill.

Maatz added that women who are interested in doing their part to close the pay gap can start right at home. "Make sure you're speaking to your elected officials. Current laws are so weak we can't close the pay gap," she said. "It's word of mouth that's going to change the conversation."

In a perfect world, by the time the (real) new $10 bill is released in 2020, we wouldn't need to campaign just to receive equal pay. However, given the existence of bills like the "toothless" Workplace Advancement Act, which sounds awesome in theory but is decidedly less so upon closer inspection, that's looking increasingly unlikely. But hey — a girl can dream, right?

Images: TheReal10/AAUW