The summer job season on the horizon, boys and girls alike will be searching for employment. Unlike each other, however, will be what they take to the bank, with the girls continuing to lag behind their male counterparts.
A national survey by Girl Guides of Canada polled boys and girls ages 12-18 on their work experiences during the summer of 2018. The results found that girls earn approximately $3 less per hour – $15.26, compared to $18.01 for boys. For informal work, done for family, friends or neighbours, the gap is significantly larger: $14.98 for boys, versus $8.67 for girls.
That said, Kris McGee, administrative community leader for Girl Guides in Kitchener-Waterloo, noted she does not see that reflected in the local job market.
“I do think that locally our employers do an excellent job of paying males and females the same, for the same job,” said McGee.
“We do run into the fact that we do have females that are taking lower-paid jobs – they may be taking babysitting jobs for example. There are more girls babysitting, as opposed to the boys, for example, working at the hockey rink. Which is a stereotypical example, and it’s less and less to this day, but I don’t think that I can give a really good example of how that difference has impacted girls locally.”
Some of the survey’s findings aligned with McGee’s example. It found an over-representation in particular sectors, depending on gender.
Girls are over-represented in “caring” jobs, such as babysitting, eldercare or working at a daycare, with girls at 28 per cent, versus boys at 17 per cent.
On the other hand, boys were over-represented in maintenance, gardening or groundskeeping – 23 per cent compared to girls at 9 per cent. Manufacturing or construction was another male-dominated sector at nine per cent, versus girls at three per cent.
McGee said that girls are paid the same amount for doing the same kind of work, from her personal experience.
“One thing I could highlight as a positive – both my daughters, they’re now young adult women – one continues to work for the UPI in St. Jacobs,” added McGee. “Both of them were hired by the UPI in St Jacobs as female employees and are treated incredibly well. Well-respected and paid certainly as well as any of the male employees.”
The survey brought up another notable statistic: 79 per cent of girls said that they could not negotiate compensation.
“We actually found that the numbers were fairly similar for boys and girls. And it’s not a surprise because even for adults, it’s difficult for them to negotiate a salary,” said Jill Zelmanovits, CEO for Girl Guides of Canada.
As a result of these findings, Zelmanovits said Girl Guides of Ontario is introducing a new program coming out in the fall.
“One of our program streams is called Gender Power. Where we look at equipping girls with what they need to get what they want. As a result of this study, we’re developing special activities around negotiating your salary,” explained Zelmanovits. “You have to not necessarily take the salary that’s first offered but have the chance to negotiate back and forth.”
The most unnerving part of the study found summer jobs can pose a risk for assault or harassment, with 13 per cent of girls and 11 per cent of boys reporting an incident during their summer job in 2018.
For low-income families (making $40,000 or less annually) that risk nearly doubles: 23 per cent of reported sexual harassment or abuse on the job.
“That number should be zero,” said Zelmanovits. “In 2019 … that number should be zero.”
The report encourages ways for employers and parents to make the workplace safer for girls, including “consider how jokes or nicknames might feel particularly harmful or uncomfortable to someone in their first job” and encouraging girls, if they’re interested, to sign up for traditionally male-dominated jobs.
It’s also best to instil this kind of confidence in girls from a young age, adds Zelmanovitz, so that it can translate well into adulthood.