The Gender Gap in Pay Starts Young – The Allowance Gap

The Gender Gap in Pay Starts Young – The Allowance Gap

When I saw a report this week on the Today show about gender gap in pay starts in childhood – more boys get allowance than girls – I wasn’t surprised. Boys mow the lawn and wash the car. Girls wash the dishes, vacuum the floors, and wash the cloths. For some reason in our culture, the (at best) once a week lawn mowing and car washing is valued more than washing dishes – three times a day, every day.

The studies cited by the Today show were collected by Bryce Covert in her Think Progressive blog. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 70% of boys receive an allowance vs. 60% of girls
  • Boys are more likely to get paid for what they do – 15% more boys than girls receive allowance for performing chores
  • Girls are more likely to be assigned household chores than boys
  • Only 2.9% of babysitters are male, yet they receive on average $.50 an hour more

It starts with babysitting

The statistic around babysitting was amazing to me. When I babysat, I accepted what was given to me when I walked out the door. I don’t remember anyone ever asking me what I wanted to be paid and I know I didn’t ask. When I started using babysitters for my son, I did ask the young women who stayed with him what their rate was. I remember most of them tentatively giving me a figure, typically lower than I was going to pay. My nephew baby sat for pocket money before he could drive and did pretty well. My guess is he asked for and received a fair wage for his services. I know he was in high demand.

It moves on to nursing

How can an occupation, dominated by females (babysitting) have a gender gap in pay in the males favor? It’s the same in the workplace. If we look at female dominated jobs, such as nursing, you can see the same difference. According to the US Census, while males make up less than 10% of nurses, male nurses earned, on average, $60,700 a year, while females earned $51,100 per year. I haven’t known too many female nurses who couldn’t speak up for themselves very convincingly and if they haven’t achieved parity with males in a female dominated profession, how can female workers in traditionally male occupations expect to change things?


An article in The Exchange may bring some insight to this issue, in any female dominated occupations, whether it’s nursing, social work, teaching, or babysitting. “There is certainly general wage discrimination across the labor market that can explain the nursing pay discrepancy. Another possible part of the equation, may be our incorrect perception that women are particularly suited to health- and child-care work – that it’s a natural extension of their abilities as opposed to a skill – so a premium is put on the work when men do it.”

If that is true about men in women dominated roles, it doesn’t carry over to the reverse. A Glassdoor report about female engineers illustrates that things only get worse. “Many women engineersearn less than their male counterparts and the pay gap widens as years of experience increases. The analysis revealed that women engineers earn 96.7% of what men earn early in their careers (0-3 years experience), and earn 89.1% of what their male counterparts earn when both genders have more than 10 years experience.  This means that the average compensation for a male engineer with less than three years of experience is $70,533 while women with the same experience earn less ($68,237). For those with 10 or more years, men make an average of $111,877 while women typically make $99,733.  That can easily equate to hundreds of thousands  of dollars throughout a career.” What was even more troubling was the analysis Glassdoor did around bonus awards. When bonus awards were given, women engineers earned 25% – 50% lower bonuses.


I’ve been blogging at Ask Ajna for a year now and I have done countless articles about the pay gap. President Obama has spoken out and created some “starter” laws, the press has picked up on the Equal Pay Day, and Fox News keeps the topic in the news by insisting there is no pay gap.

Many women think only other women are underpaid

What I find troubling is many women I talk with still don’t think they are underpaid. They may have a friend who is not making what she should be, or a sister who accepted less than she wanted when she started a new job, or a daughter who took a promotion without a pay increase, but despite all the news and commentary to the contrary, many women still don’t want to admit they are underpaid. That’s a problem. It’s like admitting they accepted less than they are worth is a blemish on them.

“When you know better you do better.”

This Maya Angelou quote is important for women to remember.  If you are working in a corporate environment and you are female, there are men in the workplace making more money than you are, simply because they are men.  It’s a fact.  Know it.  Believe it.  Once you know it, you can start to do something about it.  It’s the first step.  Then we need to get laws passed (not “starter” laws that just draw attention to the issue) to make it illegal to have pay inequity in the workplace. We need to get bussinesses to do the right thing – pay their female employees equitably. We need to change our culture to value the work women do as important, not just a “natural extension” of our “abilities”.

During a recent Oprah interview, Pharrell Williams, the “Happy” musician, said If women wanted to, if they wanted to shut this country down, all they had to do was not go to work and not come home. The economy, done.” I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I think he understands the power we have and are not using, not just to help ourselves, but to help people, including men.

Are you with me? Share your story – Twitter, Facebook, Youtube.

I am passionate about helping women make the most of their skills and talents in the workplace, as well as encouraging them to ask for what they want and deserve. Creating Ask Ajna with Jae Lynn has been a labor of love and if we can help women find their authentic voice and support one another, we will build a community of change.


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    • Thanks for inrtcduoing a little rationality into this debate.


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