How to “Celebrate” Equal Pay Day

A group of about 20 college students with signs gather for a photo.

The AAUW student organization at Denison University organized a rally on campus in 2014. Photo by Shivani Mithbaokar

December 10, 2014

Sometimes we find ourselves wishing for more than 24 hours in a day or more than seven days in a week, but more time is not always better: It takes women about 15 months to earn what men earn in 12, thanks to the gender pay gap.

We “celebrate” this occasion every April on a day known as Equal Pay Day, which is the symbolic day when women’s earnings (78 cents to men’s dollar) finally catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year. Equal Pay Day is a powerful occasion to raise awareness and organize action around the gender pay gap in our communities.

Equal Pay Day 2015 will fall on Tuesday, April 14, so mark your calendar!

For Equal Pay Day 2014, AAUW members organized more than 250 activities in at least 43 states. That’s more than twice as many activities than Equal Pay Day 2013 and nine more states!

But don’t take it from us — here are a few stories of successful equal pay activities and the accompanying resources so you can take action in your state or branch.

Read Stories of Equal Pay Day Activism

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The AAUW Traverse City Area (MI) Branch recruited local businesses, including restaurants, theaters, and bookstores, to give women a discount on Equal Pay Day.

For Equal Pay Day 2014, the Traverse City Area branch recruited 16 local businesses to give women a discount on Equal Pay Day to demonstrate the impact of the gender pay gap where people feel it most: their purchasing power.“It was a really excellent way to reach out to the community and get people who would never otherwise be engaged to really understand what was going on with Equal Pay Day,” said Amy Shamroe, the branch’s public policy chair.

The branch gave each participating business fact sheets about equal pay, and the businesses distributed the information and offered an Equal Pay Day discount to women all day, whether customers asked for the discount or not.

The branch also held a rally in downtown Traverse City, which Shamroe said was a great way to engage students at the local community college and high school.

If your branch or state is interested in making this idea work in your community, Shamroe suggested starting with a few businesses or business owners you know would be receptive to the idea (her branch started with the local theater) and then go from there!

The AAUW student organization at Denison University organized a campus rally.

For Equal Pay Day 2014, Paige Robnett, a current AAUW public policy intern, was serving as activism director for the AAUW student organization at Denison University in Ohio. They decided to have a rally on Equal Pay Day, and their first step was reaching out to like-minded campus groups with which they already had connections. They started with the feminist student group, which Robnett said would be her first suggestion for branches or student organizations trying to organize an Equal Pay Day activity on campus. They also reached out to fraternities, sororities, and sports teams.The student org created handmade posters and used social media to spread the word about the rally. To maximize the rally’s impact, they decided to hold it in the middle of the academic quad during Denison’s common hour, which is an hour when no students have class. On the day of, Robnett set up stations around the quad where people could make signs and posters. They also sold AAUW T-shirts and played songs that talked about money or that they felt empowered women.

The rally itself lasted about 20 minutes. Robnett opened the rally by talking about AAUW’s mission and the issue of equal pay and explaining that everyone on campus could be an AAUW member if they wanted to — for free! The other speakers were the university president, a male member of student government who is a great public speaker and an outspoken feminist, and Denison’s recently elected female president of the student body, who knew about AAUW through our campus leadership programs.

If your branch, state, or student organization is interested in making this idea work on your local campus, Robnett suggested choosing a rally time and location that will maximize attendance, playing music beforehand to attract attention and get people pumped up, and inviting speakers who will represent diverse support for equal pay. Most important, Robnett said, is utilizing AAUW’s staff in Washington, D.C.! She wished her student org members had known they could request stickers and other swag, recruit Action Network supporters at their rally, and share their success in the report-back form for recognition.

The AAUW Keene (NH) Branch leveraged media interviews and a petition drive when the mayor refused to sign a citywide Equal Pay Day proclamation.

Keene branch President Pam Kinyon spent Equal Pay Day 2014 at the New Hampshire capitol, watching Gov. Maggie Hassan sign an Equal Pay Day proclamation — but another notable Equal Pay Day activity happened a little closer to home.The Keene branch had asked Keene Mayor Kendall W. Lane to sign an Equal Pay Day proclamation (they submitted the sample AAUW proclamation with their request), and Lane had declined, saying that equal pay was a partisan, national issue that he didn’t want to get involved with.

“He raised some eyebrows with his position on that,” Kinyon said. In fact, he raised the eyebrows of a reporter at the Keene Sentinel, who wrote an article about the mayor’s decision. That article — combined with letters to the editor from the branch members and a petition circulated by an AAUW member at her local church — created so much public pressure that the Keene city manager invited Kinyon and two Keene branch members to sit down with him and the mayor to clear up the “misunderstanding,” Kinyon said.

In the meeting, the branch members explained the importance of Equal Pay Day, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act, and AAUW’s advocacy for women and girls. Kinyon said she’s hopeful that in 2015, the mayor will have a better understanding of the issue — and may even sign an Equal Pay Day proclamation for the city.

AAUW of Louisiana organized a statewide equal pay whistle-stop tour to unify branch activities in five target cities and build momentum leading up to their state convention.

Instead of one day of activities, AAUW of Louisiana organized a statewide, two-week Stand Up for Louisiana Women tour in 2014 and hit five cities across the state.AAUW of Louisiana worked with the branches in those cities to plan equal pay activities, such as issue forums with a guest speaker or panelists, Cookies and Convos events (a nonalcoholic variation of Cocktails and Convos, or tabling events on college/university campuses. Past state President Deborah Freda said one of the highlights was an event where local branch members baked brownies and cookies, and the students set up a table on campus and sold the baked goods for 75 cents to women and $1 to men (to approximate the gender wage gap).

AAUW members timed the tour so that Equal Pay Day fell in the middle of the two-week span and the Louisiana state convention fell at the end. On Equal Pay Day itself, they held a state lobby day and worked with the Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus to organize a press conference and state legislative proclamation.

“All of these activities gained a lot of awareness for AAUW in Louisiana,” Freda said. “After that, we were really seen as a leader for equal pay initiatives and advocacy in the state.”

If your state or a network of branches in your area is interested in this idea, Freda suggests that you choose a time frame for the equal pay tour based on the size of your state or region, the resources you have, and the natural strengths of the branches in the areas that you’re trying to target.


Already have an Equal Pay Day event in the works?

Let us know so we can send you stickers and other materials and help make your event successful!

Get Resources for Your Equal Pay Day Activism

These stories represent just four of the many exciting Equal Pay Day activities that happened across the country, and we want to help your branch or state recognize Equal Pay Day in your community in 2015. Check out the links in the above stories for tools to help you in your activities, as well as the following additional resources:

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Deborah Swerdlow By:   |   December 10, 2014