This year’s Awareness Week, which was April 1-5th, happened to fall a week earlier than that of last year. The IWL was happy to see this change as it represents a small, yet important, closing of the gender pay gap. In 2018, the raw gender pay gap showed that women made 77.9 cents to every dollar earned by men. In 2019, this gap closed by a mere 1%, meaning that women on average, across all industries, made 79 cents to the dollar that men made in the 2018 fiscal year. The gap and barriers to equal pay are even more significant for minority women and single mothers. In order to highlight the gender pay gap and gender opportunity gap, the IWL hosted eight events across five days to engage students and faculty in conversations reflecting gender differences.
To kick off Awareness Week, on Monday morning the IWL panel members stopped into the office before their first class, each taking a handful of carnations with empowering quotes attached to the stems. We asked that they hand out flowers to any female students, staff, or faculty member they knew or just happened to pass on their way to class. This simple event received significant positive feedback, as students stopped in continuously to tell us how happy they were to have received a flower. By handing out powerful messages to anybody who may have needed those words, our panel members were able to kick off the week on a positive note.
Similar to last year, Tuesday happened to fall on National Equal Pay Day, which is symbolic of how far into the year women would have to work in order to earn what men did in the previous year. So based on the 79 cents to the dollar pay gap, women would have to work until April 2nd, 2019 to make the same yearly salary that men made in 2018. In order to directly highlight that pay gap, we hosted a bake sale Tuesday afternoon, where women paid 75 cents for a treat, while men were asked to pay a dollar. While this event remains one of the most successful reoccurring Awareness Week events, it does not come without some questioning of the fairness of the up-charge for men. While most men are happy to pay the dollar, there are some people who do not believe the pay gap exists, despite the data and research being overwhelming. In order to combat these types of challenges at the bake sale, we asked that our panel members kindly explain the purpose of the up-charge- that for one moment, men would have to be facing a financial burden more so than women, as to reflect the general pay gap in society. We were happy to hear that there were fewer contestations to the up-charge this year than in the past and that most men actually donated more to the cause.
A new addition to the Awareness Week schedule this year was the Students Against Sexual Violence Campaign on Wednesday. Not only does National Equal Pay Day fall in April, but so too does National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The IWL, along with the Office for Community Standards, decided that this campaign was necessary to add, in order for our students to stand up against sexual assault on their campus. Although all entering freshmen students are required to participate in a sexual assault prevention discussion, there is a lack of continuing efforts beyond that, which the IWL, among most other community members, feel should be closed. The Students Against Sexual Violence Campaign was a passive, yet interactive event where students placed either a teal or white ribbon on a pipe and drape display for the day. The idea behind the event was simply to show just how many people in our community are affected by and willing to stand up against sexual violence. Although we were unsure what the turn out was going to look like, both male and female students, as well as plenty of staff members were willing to engage with the display, as well as wear teal pins for the rest of the day. In collaboration with the Office for Community Standards, the IWL has now turned to finding even more ways to engage our students about how to be an active bystander, prevent sexual violence, and raise awareness about this issue on their campus.
The week closed with what would be the most successful event of the campaign- the UnHappy Hour Pub Night. The pub night again charged a $1 cover for men and 75 cents for women in order to close the week with the most important take away- that the gender pay gap still exists and reaps real hardships. We also invited an all female band from Hamilton College, Yonic Youth, whose own title is in support of female empowerment. Between the live music and several silent auctions, we were pleased to greet hundreds of students to the pub night in Fels Lounge. The greatest highlight of the night came after the silent auction concluded, where it was determined that between the bake sale and the pub night that the IWL had raised over $700 to donate to Girls Inc., in Worcester.
Awareness week, although challenging at times, again pointed to the importance of pop-up style events in order to engage with students about significant problems on their campus and in society. Further, the week would not have been a success without our students taking the time to hold conversations with our panelists about why the gender pay gap, and the other issues that were highlighted, matter. We would also like to thank our amazing Panel members for all of their time and hard work in putting together and running the eight events throughout the week!
For questions, comments, suggestions for next year’s Awareness Week, or feedback from this year, feel free to reach out to IWL Director, Rachel Ferreira or email email@example.com