#20PercentCounts

Tuesday, April 10th, marked this year’s Equal Pay Day: the point in the year at which women’s earnings finally “caught up” to what men made the previous year.

To raise awareness about the fact that women in the U.S., on average, earn 20% less than their male counterparts, Lean In D.C. hosted a kickoff happy hour event on Monday, April 9th, at District Winery. This year’s featured speakers – Jenna Kruse (Vice President, Research – EMILY’s List), Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus (President – Progressive Congress), and Julie Verratti (Co-Founder, Denizen’s Brewing Co. and candidate for Maryland lieutenant governor) – spoke about the significance of the day and the importance of supporting fellow women in their efforts to lean in.

“We will see huge Twitter storms and posts on social media [around Equal Pay Day] about how it’s going to take women anywhere from 15 months to 18 months or more to catch up to a man’s pay,” Lemus said. “There are several big things we can do; the personal piece is very important, and that is to stand up for yourself.”

“[In an earlier job], one of the problems my colleagues and I used to run across when we were working on a project or doing our check-ins was that there were situations where just the louder, bigger voices in the room – which often happened to not be women – were the ones being heard,” Kruse said.

Kruse added that, in response, her office had adopted a technique whereby employees were encouraged to speak up in affirmation when they agreed with a point that was raised. The idea was to create a positive environment in which many different voices were strengthened and amplified.

“I think it’s our responsibility to speak up,” Verratti added in support. “If you’re at work and one of your female colleagues says something that you agree with, and you want to show your support, say, ‘That’s a really good idea,’ and use their name when you say that out loud. I think it’s our responsibility to support one another, and hold each other up.”

Verratti added that Denizen’s Brewing Co. has adopted a special practice to encourage both women and men to aim for new tiers of success in their careers.

“One of the things we do as an employer is that, when we offer positions to people, we say, ‘This is the salary we’re offering you. This is the position. And, we expect you to negotiate. Come back to us and let us know what you think,’” Verratti said. “We have found that it’s so important to encourage people – especially women – and give them permission by saying, ‘Hey, you need to negotiate this. Don’t just take what we just said to you.’ We may not agree with [what they try to negotiate], but [everyone] should go through the efforts of actually negotiating. I think that’s really important. And, I think it’s also our responsibility, especially as an employer, to make sure we’re giving folks training opportunities and leadership opportunities.”

More than 100 women and their advocates gathered for the event, for which District Winery generously provided event space, wine, and appetizers.

The kickoff ushered in the second consecutive year of the #20PercentCounts movement – a national campaign by LeanIn.Org that was modeled after Lean In D.C.’s annual efforts. In 2014, Lean In DC team members developed a campaign with local business owners to raise awareness about the pay disparity between men and women. In 2017, LeanIn.Org took the campaign to new heights by drawing in hundreds of businesses across 25 cities. Last year’s participants offered a daylong 20% discount to raise awareness of the gender wage gap.

New this year, participating businesses raised awareness by a portion of their sales on April 10th to organizations that support women and their families, including the American Association of University Women, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Dress for Success, and Feeding America.

View Lean In D.C.’s 2018 Equal Pay Day Google Map or learn more about this year’s DC-area participants by clicking on the links below:

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