“Did you know that in 2014, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 79 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 21 percent?”
the American Association of University Women asked in article The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.
The gender pay gap is alive and well – but why? After all, women make up more than half the population. We hold more 4 year degrees than men and make up about half of the workforce.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has research which:
“…shows that, irrespective of the level of qualification, jobs predominantly done by women pay less on average than jobs predominantly done by men.”
and feels that:
“This persistent occupational segregation is a primary contributor to the lack of significant progress in closing the wage gap”
In The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations a 2016 study, Francine D. Blau, and Lawrence M. Kahn noted that:
“Gender differences in occupations and industries, as well as differences in gender roles and the gender division of labor remain important, and research based on experimental evidence strongly suggests that discrimination cannot be discounted.”
Of those, the biggest factor in pay was the kinds of jobs and industries women continue to choose.
As a survivor of low paid, part time jobs and being classically underpaid for my work in my full time technical career, I watch in horror as our society continues to pursue the “princess” mentality and applauds the fashion industry for foisting 4 inch heels on girls as young as the 8th grade – and as I continue to see the lower paying ‘female’ jobs populated become careers of choice for today’s young women.
We should expect more, not less, from our daughters and granddaughters in the work arena. At the same time, we have to establish different expectations on the home front for our sons and grandsons.
We must have the same or similar career expectations for our daughters as we do for our sons. If your daughter came to you and said “I am going to be a nurse”, what would your reaction be? Would it be different than if your son came to you with the same goal? I think it would. I think you would ask (or at least wonder and let it show) your son – why a nurse and not a doctor? I think you might ask your daughter (or at least wonder and let it show) – why such a hard course of study?
At the same time, we should have higher expectations from our sons on the home front. Very few tasks require ‘manly’ strength around the home these days. Why wouldn’t men want to spend more time with their kids? Why shouldn’t men take turns fixing the meals, doing the laundry, arranging for a sitter and more? What, you say – why should men spend more of their time doing home things? I say, because in today’s homes, the work load is terribly imbalanced.
Although over the generations, gender roles at home have inched towards change, women are still expected for the most part to be the primary housekeepers, the cooks, and the caregivers. They continue to take responsibility for arranging child care, for exploring schools, for setting up tutoring or summer camp schedules and often for transporting the children to their various activities. All of these things take time, each and every day, out of the adult’s schedule. Men’s home role (although slowly changing) remains mainly in the domain of completing occasional jobs, such lawncare (and the lawns are getting smaller and smaller).
Even when women pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers (as I did), marriage penalties still exist and pay gaps continue.
In the Scientific American article ‘Do Women Earn Less Than Men in STEM Fields?‘, the author posted that:
“Other work published in 2012, however, suggests that marriage-based salary penalties in science, engineering and math are explained by married women publishing fewer papers.”
Gee, I wonder why women publish fewer papers, with so many daily drains on their time.
Addressing the gender pay gap at home.
Because of these things, I feel that the most powerful things we parents can do to help erase the gender pay gap are to help our children ignore societal definitions of career choices and home roles; and to expect more (career wise) from our daughters.
You do want your daughter (as well as your son) to enjoy a satisfying and lucrative career, right?
How can you influence your children’s societal expectations?
- Show them that gender work roles at home are fluid. Switch jobs between spouses – let both cook, clean, mow, paint, repair and arrange.
- Expect them to do the same chores – make the chore assignment based on something other than gender. If one is too young to do the work, make sure they know that is the reason one isn’t doing it. If one hasn’t yet learned the skills needed, set up a schedule to make sure that one learns those skills.
- Teach them the same skills. Teach your sons to cook and do laundry. Teach your daughters to mow, drill and fix the car. Make sure each has all the requisite skills to run a home.
How can you help your daughter to expect more from her career?
- Expose her to a full range of career choices.
- Starting at a very young age, help your child to see the possibilities, to dream big. Help each to experience what it might be like to work in a field – through pretend play, observation, movies and volunteering. If she doesn’t know what is out there, how can she ever figure out what she wants to do?
- Make her aware that she is responsible for her financial well being. – unless you plan to support her throughout life, set the expectation strongly that she is the one who has to earn a living – that she won’t necessarily be able to depend on anyone else for financial backing, that she needs to develop the skills, interests and drive to stand on her own two feet.
- Make her aware that certain industries and jobs pay more than others.
- Culture is a strong influence. You aren’t the only person setting expectations for your children. Teachers, media, peers, neighbors and other relatives are hard at work trying to put her on the right cultural path. Routinely discuss the types of jobs/careers or businesses that have the highest financial reward and explore with your children why (or why not) they might want to head for a higher paying job. Talk about how that work might be similar or different from the work in lower paying careers.
Make her aware that certain types of positions provide bonus and benefit perks.
When I started work, I had no idea that some employees were receiving stock options or getting an annual bonus or got more time off or more valuable training. Research together and discuss the kinds of positions that might offer these perks.
Help her understand how to advance into higher level or add on positions.
Most of us start out at a lower level position when we start our careers. Some never get promoted and seldom get raises. Very few understand how to move ahead to additional industry positions (such as becoming a paid board member of another company). Positive examples of others moving up with explanations or demonstrations of the methods they used to do so will help her peer into the mists of advancement possibilities.
Show her that there are many different kinds of work within each industry.
Perhaps she has an affinity towards certain lower paid kinds of work – like caring for pets, or teaching. Make sure she knows that this kind of work is not limited to lower paid careers. Show her that instead of being a dog sitter, she could check out working as a veterinarian. Expand her idea of teaching to include becoming a professor, consultant or motivational speaker.
Challenge and stretch her career expectations of herself.
If she wants to be a nurse, talk to her about being a doctor. If she wants to be a pilot, show her that she could become an astronaut. If she wants to be a house cleaner, stretch her to think about owning her own cleaning business.
If you are successful, don’t be shocked if your daughter retains her own name when married and requests that her spouse move with her to the location of her new job!