A "Pay Gap" Shop Gives Women A Discount

To call attention to the pay gap in Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh artist has opened up a pop-up shop that gives women a 24 percent discount on its ceramics, stationary, jewelry, art and other items, reports MSNBC. Men have to pay full price. Called “Less Than 100,” the project aims to start a dialogue around the stubborn pay gap between men and women, both through its own disparate pricing system and through events with female businesswomen. According to the latest Census Bureau figures, the median earnings of a woman working full-time in Pennsylvania are only 76 percent of the median earnings of a man.

Elana Schlenker, an artist who attended the University of Pittsburgh and just moved back to town after a stint in Brooklyn, wanted to find a positive way to highlight the continuing income disparities between men and women. She decided to create a store that would uplift the efforts of women artists and designers, but with a price differential that mimicked the state’s median wage gap.

“I’ve read article after article about the wage gap and the ways in which women continue to be undervalued in the workplace,” Schlenker told MSNBC. “I want to help take steps toward remedying this.”

Hence, 76<100 was born. The pop up will run in Pittsburgh through the month of April. The nonprofit project, which raised $5,000 of its operating budget from women’s advocacy organizations and community groups, also hosted a number of networking and informational events through the month geared towards raising awareness around the gender pay divide and bolstering women’s economic power.

Giving women a 24 percent discount on everything across the store is a dramatic move, particularly as Schlenker acknowledges, when you get to the higher priced items. (Nearly a quarter off a $400 painting is no mean sum.) As Schlenker told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

It’s a little tongue-in-cheek and obviously it’s not fair, but hopefully that will stop people for a minute and we can have some conversations about the issue.

So far, the response has been largely positive, Schlenker reports.

Amazing men have been contacting me saying, this is really important,” she told the Urbanist Guide.

But as Hanna Rosin and others have noted before, the gender pay gap figures that President Barack Obama and others throw around are more complicated than they seem.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't keeps track of equal pay for equal work, but takes the median earnings of a full-time employee; the number of hours worked per week, the amount of childcare leave, the type of profession or industry all determine how much companies pay their employees. And much of the pay gap is tied to race than it is to gender; white women often outearn African American or Latino men. Women of color face a much steeper pay differential than their white counterparts.

It’s rare that a male boss is confronted with two employees, one male and another female, who do the same jobs for the same hours and decides, on the basis of gender alone, to give the woman only 76 cents on the dollar. As Rosin points out, when studies have tried to account for the differences across industries or hours worked, the pay gap narrows significantly.

That does not mean that the pay differential doesn’t exist or that we shouldn’t care about it. Women do continue to earn less than men over the course of their lifetimes, thousands and thousands of dollars less. It is just that the reasons for that persistent gap tend to be structural rather than due to misogynistic bosses.

Women still bear the brunt of the child-rearing costs and are more likely than their male partners to mold their professional lives around jobs that provides greater leave and more flexible hours – jobs that often come with a lower pay grade. Our education systems still encourage girls to go into fields that emphasize social and caretaking skills over the quantitative strengths required for the high-earning sciences and engineering degrees. Our cultural norms condition women to ask for less and to be less secure of their own abilities in professional settings. And our social roles still encourage women to think “having-it-all” means they can and should be performing the time-consuming roles of wife, mother and worker all at once.

At least at 76<100, a woman’s dollar will go a bit further than usual. And next up for Schlenker and the “Less Than 100” project is the city of New Orleans, where the pop up craft shop heads this fall.

Images: Getty Images (3)