While most of us are aware that the gender wage gap exists, it’s hard to fully grasp what that difference actually means for American women.
To paint a clearer picture, about 300 local businesses in 25 cities around the country will be offering 20% discounts to women this Tuesday to “punctuate the impact it has on families,” says Rachel Thomas, president of the Sheryl Sandberg-founded nonprofit Lean In, which is spearheading the effort.
The idea behind the new initiative, aptly named #20PercentCounts, is to “link [the pay gap] to simple, everyday purchases in local communities,” says Thomas. This way, the pay gap goes from being a nebulous idea to a reality—even if only for a day. The businesses participating include local pet supply stores, coffee shops and pizza shops.
Tuesday, April 4th marks the day in 2017 until which American women would have to work to earn as much as their male counterparts did in 2016. On this day—known as Equal Pay Day—women’s organizations around the world will be shining a light, in a variety of ways, on what exactly the wage gap is and what it means for women’s lives.
This year’s national Lean In initiative is based on the successful campaign spearheaded last year by Lean In’s Washington D.C. chapter, which took place on April 12th and in which the capital’s businesses offered discounts of 21% to women and women’s advocates. Because the pay gap is (slowly) shrinking, Equal Pay Day is being commemorated earlier this year than in 2016, and the amount of the discount has decreased by one percentage point.
While the average wage gap for U.S. women is currently at 20%, the size of the gap varies by race and ethnicity; it is far larger for women of color, according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Black women are paid 37% less than their while male counterparts—a gap that increases to 46% for Hispanic women. This means that an Equal Pay Day for black women only would fall on July 31st, while Hispanic women would have to work until November 2nd of this year to earn as much as white men did in 2016.
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In addition to its partnerships with local businesses, for which Lean In provided signage and marketing support (sponsored by Salesforce (CRM)), the organization has teamed up with energy bar maker LUNA, ride-hailing company Lyft, and Procter & Gamble (PG) to offer nationwide discounts. LUNA is offering 20% off all LUNA Bars sold online, Lyft is donating 20% of ride fares on Equal Pay Day to organizations that serve women and families, and P&G is offering a rebate on its products through the month of April.
The nonprofit also produced a video in conjunction with Funny or Die and Hulu which shows women getting literally 80% of what they pay for.
According to IWPR, closing the gender pay gap would add $513 billion in new income each year, cut the poverty rate for working women in half, and lift 3.1 million working women and their families out of poverty.