Gender pay gap begins in childhood

A U.K. study found that boys get 12 per cent more, on average, in weekly allowance than girls do. The reason why is simple — and it can teach us all a valuable lesson.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the headlines earlier this year reporting that, according to a survey by a U.K. financial institution, girls get less pocket money from their parents than boys do. The poll of 1,800 parents and children under the age of 16 found that the nation’s sons receive an average weekly allowance of £6.93 ($11.75), while their daughters get an average of £6.16 ($10.45) a week.

It made no sense to me that parents were discriminating against their own children, treating one gender differently than the other. I have only one child — a boy — but if he had a sister I can’t imagine any reason why she would receive any more or less in weekly allowance than he does. Growing up, my brother and I always got the same amount in allowance, too, despite the fact that he’s two years older than me.

Then I read more of the study’s details, and the gender discrepancy started to add up. The boys are pushier than the girls — they’re more likely to complain to their parents that their allowance is too low. In other words, they ask for a raise more often. Just like men do in the workplace.

It’s well established that part of the reason why the gender pay gap exists is that women fail to negotiate higher starting salaries at the beginning of their careers, as well as raises throughout their working lives. It should come as no surprise, then, that this trait difference begins in childhood.

I can attest that my son often asks for a bump in his allowance, and so far we’ve only given him one raise — and that was because of his age. We started with two dollars a week when he was five, and raised it to five dollars when he was eight. He’s now 10, and I can see us agreeing to give him another raise in the near future should he ask again — which I’m sure he will.

If he weren’t the type to ask, though, I could see us sticking with the status quo, not because we think he doesn’t deserve more as he gets older, but because of inertia. It’s easy to just keep doing what you’re doing, especially if everyone is happy to go along with it.

This is where I think we, as parents, can help alleviate the problem. Instead of making raises to our kids’ allowances on an ad hoc basis, perhaps it should be something we revisit on an annual basis — say every year around the child’s birthday, at New Year’s, or in the fall at the start of the academic year.  That’s not to say that we need to actually give them a raise each year, but it’s an opportunity to discuss it and allow both our sons and our daughters the opportunity to make their case. By giving them some practice at financial negotiation — and the understanding that it’s okay to ask — perhaps we can level the playing field for them by the time they hit the workforce.

Keep the conversation going

How much allowance, if any, do you give to your kids?  Post a comment below.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.

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