The Pocket Money gender issue

The latest data on the gender pay gap in the UK shows that women are earning only 80p for every £1 earned by men.  Recently the UK Labour party calculated that it would take 60 more years to close this gap with the current policies in place.


These figures still surprise me, given how much I have heard of equality pay ever since joining the job market. As a woman in a traditional male industry, I have tried to do my part - always keeping alert and avoiding this type of discrimination.  I participated in many meetings of the "Women in Finance" network in London throughout the 90s. Many amazing people were contributing to the debate and many great policies have been inspired by their work. Despite this it appears a lot still needs to be done.

As a parent of both a boy and girl, I am always very sensitive when it comes to anything gender related. I am aware what a cultural battlefield this topic has become in our society. Whether you believe that there are effectively genetic differences between boys and girls or that gender is a social construction, there are a lot of cultural narratives that we end up imposing on our children.  I often feel like walking on egg shells when I buy toys or clothes for my kids, trying to avoid the cliches of gender stereotyping and feeling a very proud and progressive-politically-correct mummy watching my daughter playing with trucks whilst my son takes his doll for a ride in the toy stroller.

All too often, however, I succumb to the enormous cultural pressure (how can we escape it?) and last year, in a moment of reckless pragmatism, I cut all my boy's beautiful long hair, whilst my daughter got pink hair clips and her curls intact. I hope they will not need too many years of therapy to get over this outright act of violent gender discrimination.

Certainly I wasn't particularly surprised to find a significant gender gap in the payment of pocket money ! In the last few years there have been several surveys on the subject, and they always reported the same findings: Boys are paid more than girls, as young as age 8!

Gender discrimination is here, alive and kicking, in our children's world. It starts early and comes from the very people who mostly love us and value us: our parents.

survey by the Co-operative Investments Child Trust Fund in 2009 found that  "boys receive 10% more pocket money than girls up to the age of 15". 

More research of this kind throughout the years showed similar results with different levels of magnitude. Boys always consistently earned more.  Halifax Pocket Money Survey in 2012 reported a 6% difference, while another reported it as up to a whopping 15% in 2013.

The more we drill into the numbers, the more the differences become clear. Not only boys seem to be paid more for the same tasks, specially the ones that are perceived as traditionally "feminine" (setting the table is 200%+ remunerative for boys than girls!), but parents also seem to skew the assignment of domestic chores by gender. Girls are more often required to tidy up and clean the home, whilst boys are asked to do the gardening and wash the car.

The mere act of talking about money and setting financial goals also seems to happen more with boys.  According to American Investment manager T. Rowe's 2014 Parents, Kids and Money Survey, 58% of boys report to discuss financial decisions with their parents versus 50% of girls.  

If you believe, as we do, that talking about money with parents is the first important stepping stone into a healthy financial future, it seems only obvious that boys feel smarter than girls when it comes to their finances (45% versus 38%).  The higher confidence must be traced back to mum and dad: boys are considered more trustworthy when it comes to finances, as 80% of parents of boys think their sons understand the value of money compared to 69% for girls.  As a possible consequence, the percentage of boys that get a credit card is the double than the percentage of girls (12% versus only 6%)

The underlying reasons of the gender wage gap are generally not clearly understood and this is true both in the adult world and the world of children. The research web site "Striking women", a joined project from Lincoln and Leeds Universities in the UK, lists amongst likely causes of the workforce income gap:

Discrimination, traditional undervaluing of women's skills and competencies, the gendered division of household labour and responsibility for dependant family members and lower level of assertiveness of women in demanding promotions and pay rises. 

The recent pocket money surveys all suggest a similar bias. As parents we can attempt to address these issues wherever we see them, being mindful of consistency in the way we approach money with our children, both boys and girls.  HootLoot wants to improve awareness and debate about all children's financial issues. We will offer all the tools and resources to help kids and parents get into better money habits and (hopefully) in the process create more equality in pocket money. 



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