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A traveling pop-up shop is making a powerful statement about equal pay


Inside the Pennsylvania store that charges women 76% of what it charges men

By Katie Booth on April 21, 2015

A pop-up shop in Pittsburgh is charging women lower prices than it’s charging men, and it might be making a stop near you someday.  At <100, founded by artist Elana Schlenker, the disparity between what women and men earn is reflected on the price tags.  At the current shop, 76<100, Schlenker has implemented a “pay what you’re paid” pricing model, charging men the full price and women just 76 percent of all items in the shop.

This reflects the approximate gender wage gap in Pennsylvania, where women on average earn 76 percent of what men earn (some estimates in Pennsylvania put the figure at 77 percent), but Schlenker plans to take the shop on the road to other cities in the U.S. The shop’s next stop, in New Orleans, will reflect an even wider gender wage gap of 66 percent.

The shop features the work of local women artists, but Schlenker isn’t turning a profit and that’s not her goal, she told Women in the World. Instead, her goal is to make the gender wage gap tangible, and provide a place where people can openly about it with members of the community.

Elana Schlenker. Photo credit: Ross Mantle
Elana Schlenker. Photo credit: Ross Mantle


Women in the World: Tell us a bit about yourself. What were you doing before beginning this project? 

Elana Schlenker: I’m a graphic designer—I run my own my studio and also publish an annual design magazine called Gratuitous Type. It wasn’t my plan to get involved as an activist, but when I had the idea to do a shop with this “pay what you’re paid” pricing, I felt like it could be a really powerful, positive, and fun way to approach the issue and also connect with other women whose work I admire. It felt like a good fit with what I already do and understand (curating, working with artists) and an issue I care about.

WITW: When did you first become aware of the wage gap in the U.S.? Is it something you’ve noticed or felt on a personal level, or seen in your community?

ES: It’s something I’ve been aware of for a long time, and I feel like almost every day I read a new article about how women are undervalued, underpaid, or underrepresented in the workplace.

Over the course of this project, quite a few women have come into the shop to share their personal experiences with me, and recently, a friend of mine revealed that she was passed over for a job at a design studio because she was a woman, and that the studio was open about the reason for their decision. I think she was really shocked—it’s not something many women in my generation think we’re going to come up against. But whether the discrimination is as overt as this, or a result of more subtle, unconscious biases, it’s clear that we’ve got a way to go until the workplace is truly equalized for women and people of color.

Beyond the issue of fair pay, it is disheartening to still see so few women in government, so few women on board of directors, eroding reproductive rights for women across the U.S. This shop is a very small way for me to do something about it. It’s a gateway, I’d like to continue to be involved.

WITW: How did the idea of a pop-up shop come about to address the issue of wage inequality?

ES:  I felt that creating a store with pricing that mirrored the wage gap would be a great way to encourage conversation around the issue, and I liked the fact that an aspect of the project would include promoting women artists—it was important to me that the project not just highlight this negative reality, but offer a positive space that empowered women.

Photo credit: Ross Mantle courtesy of Alana Schlenker
Photo credit: Ross Mantle courtesy of Elana Schlenker

WITW: What’s for sale at the current pop-up 76<100?

ES: Work by U.S.-based women artists and entrepreneurs, about a quarter of whom are local to the Pittsburgh region. The range of items is really diverse, we’ve got original art works and prints, ceramics, textiles, books and magazines, personal care products, packaged food, and accessories. Pricing in the shop varies from $1 to $300, with a large portion of shop items under $20.

WITW: What’s your goal for the pop-up shop?

ES: The pricing structure is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, to grab the community’s attention and then foster dialogue around the issue. More than anything that is what I hope for—to get people talking about the wage gap and these other women’s issues, and to understand that remedying this isn’t about discriminating against men, or even passing legislation necessarily—there are a lot of more deeply seeded issues and biases in our society that are perpetuating this problem.

WITW: At 76<100, women shoppers pay 76 percent of the retail price for a product, while men pay 100 percent. What responses have you gotten, from women and men, respectively?

ES: The project has been incredibly well received, particularly locally. Both women and men have come out to visit the shop and support the project, to discuss their own experiences, and of course to check out all the wonderful work we have in the store! I’ve been really surprised by the number of men who’ve come in and been genuinely pleased to hear about our mission. Most people realize that this is about celebrating and supporting women, not punishing men.

WITW: Where are you heading next with the project?

ES: I’m here until the end of the month. After that I’ll reopen in New Orleans in October or November, in partnership with Tammy Mercure, a photographer based there. And then I’m not sure, a lot of people have been getting in touch about bringing the project to their cities, so I need to sit down and figure out what makes the most sense, but I’ll definitely keep traveling with the shop.

WITW: What ways are you working to involve the communities in which the pop-up shops are located?

ES: Each pop-up coincides with events aimed at connecting and empowering local women and girls. In Pittsburgh, we’ve held an intergenerational “Story Swap” to bring girls and women together to discuss their experiences, a negotiation workshop, and presentations from some of the artists selling work in the shop. Engaging the local community is a vital aspect of the project and something I’m excited about exploring further in future incarnations of the shop.

76<100, the current shop, is open 12­ p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays until April ­30 at 4901 Penn Avenue in Garfield, Pennsylvania.