New study shows children believe gender wage gap is unfair
HALIFAX -- A new study from Dalhousie University shows that young children believe that gender pay inequity is unfair.
According to Stats Canada, women in Canada earn only 87 cents for every dollar earned by men.
John Corbit, a postdoctoral fellow in Dalhousie’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, wanted to take a look at this grown up issue through children’s eyes.
His research, published recently in Child Development, showed that children as young as five want everyone to be paid the same, for completing the same task.
In a series of studies in Boston and Peru, children were asked to complete tasks in a classroom, and were paid with candy.
“They were either paid equally, or in one case, the male was paid more, and in the other case, the female was paid more,” says John Corbit.
When the children were told boys and girls were paid differently, they sought to close the wage gap.
“Overwhelmingly, they were willing to pay with their own candies and redistribute resources that were divided unequally,” says Corbit.
While his research doesn’t answer why the gender pay gap exists, it does rule out that children hold a bias from an early age.
“It’s possible that we would see a form of in-group preference here, where males would favour males, and females would favour females, but we didn’t see that and we didn’t see shadows of the gender pay gap where pro-male inequality might have been tolerated,” says Corbit.
Nova Scotia’s former Minister of Status of Women says she lived the gender pay gap reality until she was 50.
“Until I was elected, and so as minister and MLA was the only time in my life that I ever had pay equity with my male colleagues,” says Joanne Bernard, who now works as CEO of Easter Seals.
Bernard believes laws needs to be changed to close the wage gap.
She thinks employers who are hiring shouldn’t be allowed to ask women how much they made in their former job, and she has some advice for anyone asking for more money from an employer.
“It’s important that you know your worth, what your experience is, what your capabilities are, what your contributions are, and always standing up for yourself in making sure you get that compensation that you deserve,” says Bernard.
Corbit says it would have been concerning if his research saw a bias in children, but believes his study shows that the origins of the wage gap stem from somewhere else, and that it is a hopeful sign that young children are concerned with fairness.