Six New Haven establishments participated in Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, largely thanks to the efforts of three Yale students.
A nationwide initiative begun in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity, Equal Pay Day marks how far into the new year the average American woman would have to work to earn what the average American man did during the previous year. Kiki Ochieng ’15, Dianne Lake ’15 and Emma Goldberg ’16, a former opinion editor for the News, teamed up with the Women’s Center to convince six New Haven restaurants and retail outlets to offer female customers a 22 percent discount in recognition of the fact that nationally, women in the workplace earn 22 percent less than their male counterparts. Tuesday marked the second year that local businesses have been involved with Equal Pay Day.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to get more awareness out into the community,” Lake said. “People think about it more when they realize that businesses they love are participating and interesting in having this dialogue about the wage gap.”
FroyoWorld, Orangeside Donuts, Katalina’s Bakery, Insomnia Cookies, Ordinary and Therapy were the businesses that took part in the awareness movement this year. FroyoWorld, Katalina’s and Insomnia also participated in 2014.
Ochieng said she was pleased with the local response to the Equal Pay Day effort.
“I think it’s gotten a lot of people talking about [the gender wage gap] on campus,” she said. “I’ve had several come up to me and ask about these issues, and also ask how we can make a change, even on a micro level.”
The way in which men and women interact with one another as undergraduates has a large impact on these same interactions in their future professional lives, according to Ochieng. She said she believes it is important for different genders to engage with one another as equals in classes and extracurriculars on campus.
Lake said she and the others targeted small businesses in the city because these establishments have close relationships with their customers. Lake added that local businesses were generally amenable to promoting Equal Pay Day, noting that the only businesses that refused to participate were those whose profit margins would suffer heavily from doing so.
Ochieng said that while she has never been a victim of the pay gap, she has several family members who have. She emphasized that the wage gap issue extends beyond New Haven and Connecticut.
“It’s kind of ridiculous that working just as hard as my Yale colleagues at the same jobs, I could make less,” said Ochieng. “And there are problems in all fields, even higher paying ones like [medicine and STEM]. Equal pay should be a national priority.”
Goldberg, Ochieng and Lake reached out to and received support for their initiative from Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. DeLauro has long been a staunch supporter of equal pay, according to Sara Lonardo, her communications director. DeLauro has introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act to the U.S. Congress every year since 1997 and has held multiple workshops that promote pay negotiation for women.
Gov. Dannel Malloy also released a statement yesterday to recognize Equal Pay Day.
“In Connecticut, we are working every day towards [addressing the gender wage gap],” Malloy said. “This year, we have introduced legislation to change Connecticut’s pay secrecy laws, a practice that ultimately perpetuates income discrimination and allows the gender wage gap to persist. Women deserve the same pay for the same work.”
Ochieng noted that progress has been made in the equal pay movement, as the national gender wage gap has dropped from 23 percent last year to 22 percent this year.
Goldberg, who was the outreach coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center last year, said she hopes to make Equal Pay Day an annual event in New Haven. She added that she wants the day to be a more institutionalized political holiday with as many businesses involved as possible.
According to Lake, the future of the equal pay movement lies in raising awareness about government policy, educating people about the wage gap and encouraging voters to elect representatives who can work to fix the problem.
“At the University level, there should be a consistent conversation about gender issues, not only for women on campus but also for men,” Ochieng said. “The more conversations we have, the more we can take our discussions from the personal arena to the workplace.”
Connecticut’s gender wage gap matches the national average, with data from the American Association of University Women showing that women in the state make 78 cents for every dollar that men make.