You might not expect a small neighborhood gym in Southeast Michigan to be the site of a national statement on the gender wage gap, but thanks to gym owner Rich Garvin, that’s about to change.
Garvin, 53, the owner and operator of the GYM of Lake Orion & Orion Judo Club in Lake Orion, Michigan has been making headlines for his rather unconventional membership deal: at his gym, women pay two-thirds of the monthly fee that men pay.
And why exactly do women pay only $20 a month at Garvin’s gym, while men are stuck paying the full $30 monthly fee? Well, for Garvin, it’s a way to highlight the gender wage gap that still exists in our country. If women are getting paid an average of 20 percent less than men, it’s only fair that they should pay less, right?
Describing himself as a person who “doesn’t like unfairness or injustice,” Garvin tells Babble that he decided to publish an ad in a local paper advertising the membership deal for women as a way to help raise awareness about the wage gap inequality between women and men.
Raised by a single mother in the 1970s, Garvin witnessed firsthand how his mother, the only female mechanical designer in a shop of about 30, made less than her male peers simply because of her gender. Although the progressive gym owner notes that things have improved since the 70s, he says the inequalities in our society are still considerable.
“Some of it is a more insidious nature, and it’s built into our system, if you will,” he explains. “And until you figure out a way to pull babies out of thin air, you have to give consideration that women are burdened with the overwhelming responsibility of birthing and raising children and it just seems unfair to me a woman’s financial success depends on her finding a man.”
Married to a supportive wife, Shannon, and dad to fur baby Princess Leia, Garvin, who has a background in gym marketing, acquired the Gym of Lake Orion 15 years ago. The members of Garvin’s 12,000 square foot, 24-hour access gym see him about six days of the week. The outspoken gym owner notes that anyone at his gym knows that he’s the kind of guy who’s not afraid of a little debate.
“I like information,” he adds. “If someone presents me with information contrary to my position, I’ll change my position.”
He notes that although inequality towards women may not be immediately obvious, especially depending on the environment, the issue is widespread and affects more than we realize, from low-income work up through the leadership level of our country.
“If you look at the big picture of it, the numbers are there and they don’t lie,” he adds. “Women work just as much as men; they just don’t get paid for the hours that you are work.”
And on top of the inequalities women face, the disparity among minorities is even greater.
“Black women have a much larger disparity than white women,” Garvin explains. “There’s unfairness to be found anywhere you deviate from the white male; And I am not anti-white male—I am one (although we seem to complain a lot when things don’t go our way).”
Despite the complexity of the issue, Garvin simply hopes that his gym can help create awareness about the issue that he believes many people are simply not educated about. And so far, it’s working. While female clients aren’t knocking down the gym doors to nab the discount, Garvin’s story has been covered by local newspapers and TV stations and is fostering discussion within the community and online.
Overall, he says the reaction has been supportive. But of course, not everyone is a fan of Garvin’s statement for women. He notes that there have been men who have voiced an opinion that the discount is not “fair” and that it’s “discriminatory” against men. “…this is rediculous [sic] why should i have to pay 10 bucks more than a woman that is sexist at its definition,” commented one disgruntled man on a local news article. (And yes, he really did spell “ridiculous” wrong in his complaint.)
“I point out they feel cheated against a tiny little gym that they’re not ever going to step in,” Garvin says of his response. “But put the shoe on the other foot and you have to put up with a circumstance every single day life that will have significant impact on your life and that’s the position women have been in.”
Although Garvin admits that he has been surprised by the reaction to his promotion, he’s taking it all in stride and hoping that it helps raise awareness about the inequalities women and minorities in our society face.
“I’m just one cog in the wheel of progress,” he says. “If I can help in the understanding of this situation and create a more fair and just place, then I feel good about it.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering what Garvin’s position is on inclusivity, transgendered individuals and those identifying as women are welcome to receive what he calls the “XX discount.”
“We’re a laid-back kind of place,” he says. “I wouldn’t turn down a member who wants to join my gym.”