AAU’s Business and Finance club and Black Student Union united on Tuesday, September 20 to host the “Brunch to Bridge the Gap,” dissecting an old, yet unresolved topic: inequality and the gender pay gap.

Jean Kallenburg, Student Council President and board member of the Business and Finance club, opened the panel with a walk down Wall Street where women immediately face an obstacle termed the “broken ladder rung:” a barricade based on gender bias that hinders climbing the corporate ladder, as is evident in the disparity between male and female promotions in business.

Compared to men, only 2.4% of female start-ups get funded. Additionally, there is hesitancy to promote women because men do not want to be managed by women, Kallenburg said.

Rooted in culture, the “broken rung” is difficult to eradicate but discussing the issue highlights the gender pay gap in financial services. A lack of female representation and role models in media and the business world coupled with stereotypes causes the metaphorical ladder to break, according to Kallenburg. 

Student Council President Jean Kallenburg speaking on women in finance

While companies appear to promote diversity within businesses, it is hard to tell whether or not it is a facade created in response to an outcry and driven by self-promotion. Women must seize leadership positions to become the role models that propel future generations of businesswomen.

Lindsey Sipplen, Black Student Union President and board member of Business and Finance club, identified the antagonist to the gender pay gap as a lack of respect, emerging as disguised prejudice in the workplace and at home.

“Instead of saying ‘women can’t work here; women can’t do this job,’ they say ‘that skirt is too short, it’s unprofessional’ or ‘black women’s natural hair is not professional,’” Sipplen said. These encrypted comments exemplify how women’s bodies, not their work, are evaluated in the workplace. 

Black Student Union President Lindsey Sipplen discusses paying women in non-monetary ways

In a home environment women receive similar prejudice, battling predetermined conventions such as not having both children and a career while men are not associated with this taboo, according to Sipplen. Solutions to fighting prejudice included challenging our own double standards, providing a platform to listen to women, and honouring women’s work through equal pay.

The panelist line-up concluded with Lennon Wall Editor-in-Chief, Abigail Calandra, addressing women and the pay gap in journalism. Diversity within journalism would not just align with equality; it overrides biases and maintains the principles of journalism. However, according to Calandra, this is not the reality.

Lennon Wall Editor in Chief Abigail Calandra

For example, women are portrayed similarly in films across careers. Kallenburg sighted how The Wolf of Wall Street presents business as a male dominated industry, dissuading women to be a part of it. 

Calandra shared that The Post was a major influence on her decision to pursue journalism. However, her purpose for speaking about the film was to emphasize its failure to represent Katherine Graham’s role in the release of the Pentagon Papers despite her ownership of The Washington Post from 1963-91.

Despite the despondent reality surrounding this issue, the discussions revealed small yet positive actions at AAU—movement in the right direction. The 2022 fall semester sees the start-up of the new club Black Students Union and the collaboration of student clubs to address these problems in society today.

Lennon Wall and the Business and Finance club boast a female staff majority. The event coordinators were pleased with the turnout for the first event held with this initiative, and with increased promotion they have high expectations to increase awareness surrounding inequality and the gender pay gap in the future.