Why pay inequality between men and women begins in adolescence (and how to avoid it)

Why pay inequality between men and women begins in adolescence (and how to avoid it)


The differences do not have as much to do with the negotiation, but come from much earlier.

I have spent much of the last decade attending conferences to help women fight a widespread problem: wage inequality.

As self-defense courses began to gain popularity in the early 1980s, we sought the solution to address them in these workshops, teaching women to negotiate and understand how much they are worth.

But in doing so we made a grave mistake. We put the weight of the burden of wage inequality on the victims of discrimination and blame the wage gap on their professional decisions.

An investigation that I did recently revealed to me that the salary difference begins long before we make those career choices and negotiations: adolescent girls as young as 14 and 15 are paid less than children of their age.

I used nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youthto observe trends and also interviewed 35 young women who worked as babysitters and another 25 who worked in the retail and commercial sectors. services in the United States.

mother and child
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Putting the weight of the wage gap on victims of discrimination is not the right strategy, experts say.

I tried what happens when young women and girls negotiate their salary. I discovered that, for younger nannies, negotiations are not a simple solution to inequality: when they negotiate, they are seen as less attractive and more manipulative and, therefore, it is more difficult for their employers to pay them more.

In addition, talking about money is seen as the opposite of worrying, especially in jobs that require a lot of effort. So, for example, asking for money makes it look like young women do not care about work and that they are not good for the team.

There are ways to combat this but, most importantly, in my opinion, we stop blaming women, who are victims of discrimination.

We need to treat wage inequality as a systematic failure of institutions , not as individual negotiation problems.

Information Vacuum

One of the biggest challenges is the lack of information.

Many young girls I spoke with said they do not know the minimum wage for certain jobs. In the information age, the lack of transparency about salaries is shocking.

Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption The young people interviewed shared information about their salary with other men, but not with women.

We need to put information at the service of the public and make it accessible to women.

The lack of information prevails especially in autonomous jobs, such as child care. There are not many websites that give this data or are based on their own information and do not reflect what the industry really is like.

It is a very important aspect in the job interview. It does not matter how much you negotiate: if you enter the discussion starting from a base salary substantially lower than what they should pay you, you are already at a disadvantage.

Learning to talk about money

Another barrier is that girls are taught not to talk about money.

Many young women I spoke with said they did not compare data with friends about work. We could create an open and transparent culture to teach girls to talk about money.

In contrast, the men I spoke with who work as babysitters, although not many, do share information among themselves, but not with the women who have the same position. Does that mean that networks are more useful for men?

In the case of women, many times there is no reason for a conversation about money. A young nanny told me that since she was taking care of her godmother’s daughter, she did not have to ask for money.

young girl using cellphone
Image caption In adolescence, free time is more important to them than to them.

But the wage gap has to do not only with money, but also with job descriptions.

Another solution is to make sure that we put the same descriptions for men and women. When you ask parents to describe the role of the child caregiver, it varies according to the gender of the applicant.

They are asked to do some household chores, such as cooking for the family or helping children with homework; They are hardly asked for that kind of thing.

It is important to make those descriptions clear. Not only the work itself, but also the duration of the day, because they usually finish their turn earlier.

Women who work as nannies tend to stay longer without charging extra hours and that means that for them, time is not as important as for men.

The interviews

Job interviews are also different according to gender. Employers often ask men more often how much they expect to earn. They are more open with them than with women when it comes to talking about money.

In the same way, when negotiating, they often share things with them, such as transportation costs, which do not explain as much to women.

father and son
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Men who work as babysitters have more information than women about wages and transportation expenses.

All this does not mean that women should not negotiate how much they earn, but that they should analyze more carefully what happens if they negotiate.

Instead of providing individual workshops, maybe it’s time for employers to take responsibility for their own attitudes.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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