Women talk pay gap and finances at new wine and networking event series

By Ruiqi Chen
Medill Reports

BottlesUp!, a Chicago wine shop, organized a networking and wine tasting event for women last week to discuss strategies for combating pay inequity and managing their finances, two of the biggest challenges that stand in the way of professional success for many women.

Melissa Zeman, the owner of the Lakeview East store, said she hosted the event and brought in Kristin Summers, an advisor with financial services company Ameriprise Financial, to give a presentation on what women can do to improve their financial situations. Around 40 women attended.

Zeman said she was passionate about “girl power” and supporting other women long before she opened BottlesUp! in the fall of 2019. The many woman-produced wines and liquors in her store were labeled with the female symbol, and she served snacks from woman-owned businesses.

BottlesUp! has hosted events before, but this was the first one dedicated to women. Zeman said she came up with the idea because she wanted the event to give women the opportunity to make connections, taste good wines and talk about the unique financial challenges that women face, such as the income gap and salary negotiations.

“There have been a lot of studies on how women are not as comfortable asking for a raise,” Zeman said. “Or they’re not as demanding when it comes to their careers.” She said that providing a space to have conversations about these topics could encourage women to begin combating these issues in their own lives.

Books such as Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” have supported the theory that women are paid less because they are less likely to ask for raises or new opportunities. But a 2018 study in Industrial Relations, an academic journal about economy and society, found that women and men asked for raises equally often, but requests by women weren’t accepted as often as those by men.

“We face social differences quite honestly,” Summers said before her presentation, which touched on how to combat pay inequity, the types of insurance women should buy and how to plan for retirement with or without a spouse.

Rachel Fryan, a software developer, said she appreciated the opportunity to focus on finance.

“These events are always great just to get people talking,” Fryan said. “Even just creating a safe space to ask these questions, it’s beneficial in just that alone.” The wine and camaraderie also helped, she added.

Zeman said she wanted future events to explore topics beyond finance, including women’s healthcare. More importantly, she hoped her store could be a space for women to talk openly about anything.

“I want it to become a recurring event where women can just show up and meet other women,” Zeman said. “Make new friends, make new business connections and taste awesome wines.”

Photo at top: Kristin Summers, a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial, speaks to around 40 women at an event at BottlesUp! in Lakeview East. (Ruiqi Chen/MEDILL)