Beyond getting people together for a day of music, the organizers of Salt Lake City’s Mind the Gap Fest aim to mark Women’s Equality Day — by drawing attention to the ways women are treated unequally.
The daylong music event, set for Saturday at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City, is intended to spark conversations about gender equality gaps in four main areas: Income, executive position, educational attainment and political representation.
“We thought it’d be fun to do a festive celebration of all those things — it’s like a creative way to talk about really tough subjects while still being hopeful and excited about the future,” said Samantha Smith, the festival’s organizer.
Smith said the festival’s theme was inspired by data that shows Utah consistently being named the worst state for women’s equality on WalletHub’s yearly Best & Worst States for Women’s Equality. Utah ranked last for five years in a row, from 2017 to 2022.
According to a 2023 study of U.S. Census data, women in Utah make a median annual salary of $44,707, compared to a median annual salary of $61,269 for men. That gap, of $16,562, is the third widest among the 50 states.
Addison Grace, the nonbinary Utah-based singer-songwriter and TikTok star who’s performing at the fest, said it’s important for the Beehive State to host this festival because “our state is the one that needs it the most. … Utah hasn’t seen much progression in closing the gender inequality gap, so having such a large festival to push that progression is exactly what’s needed.”
A portion of the proceeds from tickets will go to a scholarship fund for people interested in pursuing a degree in an entertainment-related industry at Salt Lake Community College.
Who’s playing the fest
Women musicians make up the bulk of the festival’s lineup, which includes artists representing diversity in identity and genre. Talent buyer Sydney DeLaCruz said the goal was “creating a lineup where anyone can come to this festival and be represented on stage.”
It’s important to highlight artists outside of the “norm” — bands made up entirely of white men — said Destroy Boys guitarist Violet Mayugba.
“It’s unfortunate that festivals like this don’t happen more often,” she said. “Luckily, we’re seeing a huge uptick in major fests making a point to broaden their lineups to include more bands like us.”
Another festival performer, Maria Maita-Keppeler — a Portland, Ore., singer-songwriter who records under the name Maita — said it’s “incredibly important” to educate the public on the gender pay gap. The gap, she said, is prominent within the music industry, whose executives are mainly male and white, according to studies.
“A music festival provides a wonderful opportunity for a teachable moment to be tied to the pursuit of joy and celebration, and forges a vital path forward of breaking the mold of the traditional model,” Maita-Keppeler said.
Organizations at the fest
The Mind the Gap Fest will also feature community partners whose missions involve working to lessen the different equality gaps. Some of those groups are the Utah Women and Leadership Project, Better Days 2020 and People Helping People.
“Music has the power to bring people together and spark critical conversation around equality for all women,” said Susan Madsen, founder and director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University, which provides research on issues affecting Utah girls and women. “The festival will increase awareness around some of the areas that Utah needs to change, particularly with our younger generations.”
Katherine Kitterman, executive director of the nonprofit Better Days 2020, which puts a spotlight on Utah women’s history, said that “women’s advocates have been working in Utah to address the pay gap, education gap, political representation gap and more for over a century.”
Utah women, Kitterman added, were the first in the nation to vote, in 1870. “We have a long legacy to draw on in creating better days for the future ahead,” she said.
The festival, Madsen said, can be a big part in building that future, because it brings together lots of organizations and people in Utah that are “doing some incredible things to reduce the gap for women. … When we bring diverse coalitions together, it builds momentum and increases our voice — and, most importantly, will urge Utah to move the needle quicker in these important gap areas for women.”
Starting from zero
Smith and DeLaCruz said they expect around 5,000 people to attend the festival. Since it’s a new event, they said they started with an audience of zero — and they’ve been working hard to get the word out, relying on their backgrounds in marketing and event planning.t planning.
“If I could give anyone advice on planning a musical festival, my advice would be to not do it,” DeLaCruz said, jokingly. She then said that, personally, she “wouldn’t change a thing,” because she said it’s going to be a great event.
“We’ve done a lot of community outreach,” Smith said, “[by] partnering with organizations whose missions align with our own, and reaching out to local business owners for ticket giveaways. We didn’t have email lists or history to rely on, so that’s been a big struggle.”
Smith and DeLaCruz said they plan to hold Mind the Gap Fest annually — and they hope to have an established crew they can rely on in the future.
“I’m just excited to see how it grows over the next few years,” Smith said.
The Mind the Gap Fest is set for Saturday, Aug. 26, starting at 11:30 a.m., at The Gateway, 18 S. Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City. Gates open at 11 a.m. The event is an all-ages show. Tickets — $69.50 for general admission, $49.50 for students, and $150 and $200 for VIP passes — are available at mindthegapfest.com.