Carnegie Mellon University
Skip navigation and jump directly to page content

March 10: Carnegie Mellon School of Design Student's "Claim Change" Campaign Advocates Equal Wages for Women


Eric Sloss

Carnegie Mellon School of Design Student's "Claim Change"
Campaign Advocates Equal Wages for Women   

PITTSBURGH—Vanessa Koch, a senior communication design major at Carnegie Mellon University, is using design to create a grassroots campaign called "Claim Change," aimed to raise awareness and inspire action on issues related to the gender wage gap.

Claim ChangeKoch received a grant from the Women and Girls Foundation to design large, three-sided, freestanding installation pieces with women’s personal narratives about their struggles with equal pay displayed on the panels. Koch interviewed various women in the Pittsburgh region dealing with wage gap issues for inspiration for the stories. The installations also include a coin slot encouraging observers to insert their spare change to make a statement to both Congress and the general public about this issue. The collected coins will be used to support the Claim Change initiative and donated to the Women and Girls Foundation.

Koch started this project last fall in the School of Design's senior project course taught by Kristin Hughes, associate professor of design. Hughes has advised Koch and other School of Design students, Anne Brodie and Grace LaRosa, in addition to industrial designer Justin Lacey (A'09). The booth and an installation will be set up at A.J. Palumbo Hall at Carlow University and will remain there through the end of March to share information about this campaign.

Koch plans to use Carnegie Mellon's Spring Carnival, April 15-19, as an opportunity to promote the project and raise awareness of the Equal Pay Day Rally on April 20. This date marks the additional amount of time an average woman in the U.S. must work to match the earnings of an average male worker from the previous year. By that point, Koch hopes to have installation pieces filled with coins to demonstrate the support for the cause.

By specifically targeting college students who will soon be faced with important career decisions, the campaign aims to create a coalition of young people to mobilize both online and in the Pittsburgh community. Claim Change advocates an immediate call to action to support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is pending in Congress. The act has the potential to increase gender equality in the workplace and decrease the gender wage gap on a national level. For more information visit


Pictured above is one of the installation pieces for the "Claim Change" campaign.