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The gender pay gap starts at home

June 03 2018 By Rebecca Poulson, Our Watch Ambassador

My nine-year-old son, Max often complains about having to do his chores.

Rebecca Poulson and family Image

Almost every day I have to prompt him to unpack the dishwasher to which he often replies: ‘Do I have to?’ I sometimes pull out the big guns at that stage and say: ‘No computer time until it’s done!

My eight-year-old daughter Rosie, by comparison, always completes her chores without me having to ask.

From the moment she wakes the first thing Rosie does is feed our cat Alfie, as if our feline’s sustenance is her number one priority.

Whilst my children’s enthusiasm for life’s daily responsibilities differ considerably, I know my son’s reluctance to do his chores is not because his gender prevents him from enjoying or excelling at them.

They’re chores and for the most part, chores suck.

I know as a busy parent that it can be hard to keep on top of the exhausting parent roster.

There is helping with homework, ferrying them to and from extracurricular activities including soccer and music lessons, whist simultaneously fostering their resilience and juggling a career.

But no matter how hard things get or how tired I may be, I try my best to be consistent when sharing the household tasks.

I am also always vigilant about sexism with my children and never let sexist comments or jokes just ‘slide’ when I am with them.

We continually dissect the archaic gender stereotypes that are often depicted in advertising, so much so that my son asked last week if a vacuum commercial was sexist because only the mum was vacuuming whilst the dad read a paper and the kids played.

I was also super proud when my daughter asked just yesterday if the cartoon she was watching was sexist because the five team members who were called to the rescue were all men.

Although I might let my daughter’s saxophone practise go for a week or my youngest son skip his maths homework if we’re both worn-out, I never let sexism just glide by without comment.

Thankfully for me, I had tremendous role models growing up. Both of my parents equally contributed to the running of the household, without my mother having to ‘prompt’ my father.

I understand now just how rare that is and I want to set the same standard for my kids.

I want them to know that despite what some people might say, a person’s gender doesn’t inherently make them better at caregiving roles or high-powered careers.

I want to show them while they are still young that if they work together to complete life’s seemingly mundane tasks they will not only be more efficient but have more time for other pursuits.

Unsurprisingly recent data released by University of Melbourne researchers together with the ABC’s Behind the News program, has once again confirmed that the ‘warning signs’ of gender inequality are determined at a very young age.

The survey of over 10,000 Australian primary and high school students revealed that girls are doing the lion’s share of housework, caregiving to siblings and counselling of others when compared to boys.

The survey also revealed that girls got paid less pocket money than their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, this is a trend that follows young girls throughout their schooling years, careers and into their homes.

Much like those polled in the survey, Australian women are still more likely to do most of the domestic chores and fulfil caregiving roles.

According to the most recent report from The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the gender pay gap is 15.3 percent, with women's average weekly earnings $251.20 less than men's.

Although we have made progress, the gender pay gap is preserved by the systemic gender inequality that exists in Australian workplaces.

Female dominated industries still attract lower wages, women are still more likely to stay at home to care for their children and the lack of flexible working environments for mums and dads make it difficult for them to share the load.

As much as it may sound trivial, the fact that boys are paid more pocket money and do less housework than girls, is regrettably very telling.

The findings of the recent survey show that many families adhere to rigid gender stereotypes and that inequality is still deeply embedded in our culture and value system.

Although the majority of the foot-dragging behaviour comes from my son, I am confident that my children understand that there are no ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ jobs in our home and that they have a good example of how an equitable household should be run.

It is with these seemingly small actions that I create a steel foundation of gender equality in our home and it is a responsibility as a parent that I take very seriously.

I want my fierce red-headed daughter to be given the same opportunities as my two sons and for all of my children to recognise that she deserves that.

This piece was originally published on Kidspot