These Women Want to Solve the Pay Gap. Are They Discriminating?

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Claire Wasserman started Ladies Get Paid in 2016 to help women advance in their careers and get the money they deserve. Until recently, the organization put on events that taught women, trans and gender non-conforming individuals how to negotiate pay and be more confident in the workplace.  

Then, the group got sued

“I thought I could just help women get more money,” Wasserman told Bloomberg. “And now I see how this is threatened.” Three men filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against Ladies Get Paid last year for excluding them from events. In April, she settled for undisclosed terms and changed the group’s bylaws to allow all genders to attend its conferences, happy hours and meetups, including men.

In this week’s episode of The Pay Check—the last in our series—we take you to a Ladies Get Paid conference held in Seattle in March.

Get Money, Get Paid happened just before Ladies Get Paid went public with the settlement, and Wasserman worries that it’ll be the last of its kind. “Everyone can attend now,” Wasserman told Bloomberg. But the vibe has fundamentally changed. “I do think something is lost there. I think it's very special when women can come together—just them.” 

The settlement wasn’t the end of the story. The suit almost put Wasserman out of business. In May, she announced in her weekly Ladies Get Paid newsletter that the group was launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise $100,000. They reached that goal in three weeks, and in mid-June, Wasserman extended the campaign to raise an additional $15,000 to “hit back harder.”

Even though women are almost twice as likely as men to say they experienced gender discrimination at work (according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey) and men run 95 percent of S&P 500 companies in the U.S., there have been several recent cases of women-led organizations being sued or investigated for unequal treatment. The New York-based co-working space the Wing is facing an investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights for not letting men join. Despite the scrutiny, it’s still opening new locations, including its first outside New York, in Washington.

Since the gender-inclusive rule went into effect, just a handful of men have attended Ladies Get Paid events. Wasserman worries that women might not feel as comfortable speaking up about toxic workplace issues or instances of sexual harassment in the office if men are in the room. 

"I think people need to understand that just because a group of women are coming together to better themselves does not mean that it is inherently anti-men," Wasserman said. "That's totally missing the point. We're seeking equality to all.
 
Want to hear more? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. The Pay Check is a six-episode deep dive into the big, expensive, global mystery of why, in 2018, women still earn less than men

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