Celebrating women is good. Doing something about the wage gap is better

A small group of industry women from across the country has spent two very busy weeks building a new passion project they hope will lead to real action on the pay gap between men and women.

Launching Monday for International Women’s Day, “Stop The Party” is a pledge to do something about income inequality. “It’s a campaign that recognizes that while women’s accomplishments are reason for celebration, the lack of progress closing the wage gap is not,” explained Erika Maginn, strategy director at The&Partnership and one of the pledge’s founders. Employers are being asked to commit to the plan in writing, leading to real action by International Women’s Day 2022.

“You have a year to look at where you’re at,” said Maginn. “If you have any issues, come up with a plan, share that plan, and then start to execute against it for next International Women’s Day. It doesn’t mean people have to have everything perfect by next year. They need to show progress.”

Like so many passion projects, Stop The Party arose out of friends and colleagues sharing their frustrations about a glaringly obvious but stubbornly enduring problem. In this case, it was the 25% disparity in wages between men and women in this country.

There are a lot of well-intentioned people and employers who know there’s a problem and want to do something about it, but don’t know where to begin, said Maginn. “If everyone agrees that this is a problem, and we want to fix it, the block seems to be getting started,” she said.

They talked about how a small group of advertising and communications professionals could do more than just raise awareness. “What can we do to make it easy for people and companies and sectors of any size to start to tackle the problem in a real way?” she said.

That was early last year, but the group hadn’t figured out the call to action when the pandemic hit, and the project got put on hold as the group got distracted by pandemic life.

But on a Zoom chat a couple of weeks ago, Maginn and another member of the group figured out the pledge solution. They also realized the best time to launch would be International Women’s Day. “So we called everyone together and said ‘Hey, what do you think about a wild ride between now and the next two weeks or 10 days?’ And everyone was in.”

The solution was a simple three-step action plan presented as a pledge for employers to sign at StopTheParty.ca.

  1. Create a plan: Take stock of your company’s current salaries and assess them for any wage gaps. Identify core issues and come up with an action plan to address existing inequities, and to future-proof your hiring and salary review practices;
  2. Take accountability: Share your plan and make it accessible to all your employees;
  3. Take action: Execute against the plan and share your progress with your employees before next International Women’s Day (March 8, 2022).

Signatories will be posted to the website so that everyone can see which companies have committed to taking real action.

The small group of 10 people behind Stop The Party built the website, produced a video and figured out all of the other details in very short order. “We created a little mini-agency for a specific project to put our skills to good use,” said Maginn.

It’s been a project fuelled by coffee, with people working late at night and early in the morning while continuing to do their day job. “We have people across the country, so you get up in the morning and you get something from the person on the West Coast that they finished at like 11 o’clock their time, and you pick it up at six o’clock in the morning,” said Maginn.

Suppliers contributed to the effort pro bono, with hard costs shared by the Stop The Party founders, said Maginn. “We’re splitting the bill.”

Aside from the video, which is live now, they’ve also created an Instagram account to post facts and figures and get people thinking about the pay gap in different ways. In the video, for example, they point out that 25% wage gap equates to working 10 years without pay.

“That’s sending your kids to university. That’s retiring early. That’s how many vacations that you want to take? That’s saving for a nest egg,” said Maginn. “It’s affecting people’s lives in very real ways.”

Stop The Party also comes at a unique moment, said Maginn, with the pandemic amplifying the disparity between working men and women in many ways. At the same time, the past year has also been a time where it felt like much of society finally recognized the need to do something about inequality. The group is hoping for another enough-is-enough moment not unlike what happened with systemic racism and inequality in 2020.

“It’s been a year that has felt different than other times when social issues have come forward, and I think people are recognizing that you don’t actually get change unless a bunch of people do something,” said Maginn.

“The idea of Stop The Party was that it’s not enough to just celebrate women on one day of the year, and then the next day, everything goes back to normal,” she added. “If we really believe in what we say we believe—that women should be treated equally—then we need to start to act as opposed to just to talk.

“I have two daughters. I don’t want my daughters dealing with this problem when they’re in the workforce.”

David Brown