The Surprising Way Teenage Girls Are Perpetuating the Gender Pay Gap

We know the gender pay gap exists — and much to our displeasure persists. And now, a new study sheds light on one of the surprising trends that’s perpetuating it. According to research by University College London’s Institute for Education, teenage girls tend to pursue jobs that pay less — even though they’re more likely than teenage boys to aspire to go to university.

After surveying 7,700 teenagers in the U.K., researchers found that the girls on average said they thought they had a 71 percent chance of going to university, while 14 percent of girls felt certain they’d go. Among the boys surveyed, on the other hand, less than 10 percent felt certain they’d go to university — and, on average, just 63 percent felt they had a chance of getting in.

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Yet while girls were more confident about their educational futures, their male counterparts were more likely to express interest in jobs with bigger salaries. The average hourly pay for the jobs girls expressed interest in was £6.49 (or 27 percent) lower than the average hourly pay for the jobs that boys expressed interest in.

Camilla Turner, education editor at Telegraphreports that “for girls, the most popular jobs that they said they aspired to were the medical profession, a secondary school teacher, a singer, the legal profession, a vet, a nurse and a midwife. For boys, it was a professional sportsman, a software developer, an engineer, the army, an architect and a secondary school teacher.”

“Both genders tended to favor jobs where the workforce was dominated by their own sex,” Turner adds. “Boys chose occupations with an average workforce that is 74% male, while girls chose jobs where women make up 59% of the workforce.”

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Professor Lucinda Platt, who coauthored the study, says the findings point to the importance of teaching teenagers about a wide range of career opportunities and encouraging them to “think beyond gender stereotypes.”

But perhaps we need to start teaching kids about their future options from an even earlier age — and part of this work involves encouraging young girls to lead. As Sheryl Sandberg said earlier this year, empowering girls to be leaders is crucial because “everyone has inside them the ability to lead, [and] we should let people choose that not based on their gender but on who they are and who they want to be.”

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Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Disc radio show, Sandberg added, “[W]e start telling little girls not to lead at very young ages, and we start telling little boys to lead at very young ages, and that’s a mistake.” 

Originally published on Fairygodboss.