IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The gender pay gap starts earlier than you think

Here's what you can do about it.
Image: Male and female office workers
Male and female office workers.Philip Toscano / PA Wire/AP file

Women make 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns. And it turns out this gender pay gap starts early -- as soon as girls are old enough to take on household chores and first jobs, according to a new study by bank and brokerage firm Charles Schwab.

“The wage gap starts at home, with boys earning twice as much as girls for doing household chores each week,” said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president at Charles Schwab and daughter of the firm’s founder.

Gregg Murset, CEO and co-founder of the household chore app BusyKid agreed that the wage gap starts quite early. While boys rake in an average weekly allowance of $13.80, girls earn just $6.71, according to his company’s data. Boys are also awarded larger bonuses by their parents.

“I do not think this is a conspiracy against girls, but I think the types of jobs that boys are given by parents at home are more strenuous, like mowing the lawn and washing the car, and as a result, the boys are earning more,” Murset said. The solution? He said parents should encourage girls to also take on the more challenging chores. Murset gave the example of his own daughter, who has taken on trimming the bushes for a higher rate.

Schwab-Pomerantz added that any first job, even if it’s a household chore, should present an opportunity for children to learn about the art of negotiation. “While kids should earn a fair allowance under their parents’ roof, first jobs—whether that be household chores or babysitting—are a great time to teach girls, and boys for that matter, the importance of negotiating their salary,” she said. “These are skills they can learn early on that will be applicable throughout their careers.”

“I do not think this is a conspiracy against girls, but I think the types of jobs that boys are given by parents at home are more strenuous, like mowing the lawn and washing the car, and as a result, the boys are earning more."

Gregg Murset, CEO and co-founder BusyKid

Yasemin Besen-Cassino, author of “The Cost of Being a Girl” and a sociology professor at Montclair State University, believes the pay gap starts around 14 or 15 years old and widens with age. She said one reason is that young girls stay in freelance positions, like babysitting, and boys move into employee-type jobs, like working for a landscaping company.

“In employing babysitters, for example, girls are given less pay than their male counterparts,” said Besen-Cassino. “And it’s more chores and more unpaid hours,” she added.

While this trend often starts at home, it almost always takes a village to help overcome these inequalities. In an experiment that Besen-Cassino designed with parents, she found that when girls asked for a raise, they were less likely than boys to get one.

Katarina Trautmann

“Parents can be aware of their biases when employing young men and women,” she said. “In interviewing them, they are more likely to ask boys how much they expect to make and tell girls how much they make.”

Furthermore, Besen-Cassino discovered that the majority of girls did not know about the going rate for jobs they were applying for. “Transparency about pay and talking about money will go a long way,” she noted.

Besen-Cassino believes that this problem must be resolved early on. “I found that these early experiences in getting low pay have long-term effects, and follows women around for many decades to come,” she said.

Regardless of how much they are earning, girls show more financial grit than boys. Schwab-Pomerantz said the females surveyed in the study are more aware of their day-to-day finances like budgeting and spending, and more girls than boys understand the value of making a financial plan. “Girls are also more willing to take on additional work to make ends meet, which further supports the idea that girls are more driven to reach financial independence,” she said.

Still, while girls (16-25 years old) spend 30% less than boys, they still have far less savings than boys ($1,267 vs. $2,000), a nearly 60 percent difference, according to the Charles Schwab report,“Young Adult Financial Literacy.” Parents should start a dialogue with their young children about the importance of saving for important life milestones, including retirement.

“Life evolves, and our financial needs evolve with it. This is something young girls and boys need to be aware of early on,” Schwab-Pomerantz said. “We all need to make financial education a lifelong pursuit.”

And regardless of the fact that girls generally tend to have good financial intentions, they face unique struggles like earning less and having different conversations about money. “Girls must be aware and proactive to overcome these circumstances. Furthermore, most young adults say their parents are their most trusted source for financial advice, so parents should be having the same money conversations with their sons and daughters,” said Schwab-Pomerantz.