Some may have thought the large green text “Pay What You’re Paid” spanning the front windows of the 76<100 shop in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh an April Fool’s joke last month, but that is exactly the model this shop functions on. Less Than 100 is a traveling pop-up shop designed by art director and graphic designer Elana Schlenker to shed light on the gender pay gap. The inaugural shop in Pittsburgh was aptly named 76<100 to mirror Pennsylvania’s specific gendered pay disparity where on average women earn just 76% of what men earn for the same work. Each item in the store was tagged with two prices, one at the full retail price for shoppers identifying as men, and the other at 76% of the retail value for those identifying as women.
Throughout the month-long lifespan of the shop in Pittsburgh, Elana welcomed countless visitors who browsed through the variety of home décor items, books, ceramics, textiles, prints, body care products, and more for sale (all made by women artists and entrepreneurs from around the U.S.) and, of course, a ton of press. From the New York Times to Refinery 29 to a Sweden-based news site called Metro to the UK’s Daily Mail to the local nightly news station in Pittsburgh, everyone wanted to see just what was going on at Less Than 100. And she already has a list of cities who want the shop to come to them; New Orleans is next in line to host the pop-up this fall.
“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.”
Less Than 100 not only promotes awareness and educates the public about the gender pay gap, but Elana has certainly molded it as a space to foster creative connection between makers, creators, and the community at large. Throughout April she hosted several events at the space including a story swap on Equal Pay Day (this year it was April 14th), a business negotiation strategy dialogue and brunch, a diy natural skin and body workshop, a conversation with local youth on gendered pay disparity, a panel on women in the workplace, and a unique bus tour of Pittsburgh taking passengers to local haunts of women artisans along the way.
From educating the public on a very real, very relevant issue, to supporting women entrepreneurs, to fostering community development, Elana has nailed it. But she’s the first to say, she’s always looking for ways to improve. It’s clear though, the launch of Less Than 100 has made a beautiful mark. In the short hour I visited the shop, on what Elana called a slow Tuesday, more than a handful of people came through, all eager to speak with her and learn more. Elana confessed to me she did receive some hateful messages in the beginning of the month, when the shop first opened its doors, but for the most part the response has been really positive. One man walked in just as I was leaving and told her he had seen the shop on the local news the night before and had to come check it out. “I think it’s awesome,” I heard him say as I walked out the door.