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When Kids Learn About the Gender Pay Gap, We All Learn Something From Them

Kids help us take a fresh look at the world around us. Sometimes, we can become so accustomed to our environment and our circumstances that we have a hard time actually seeing things the way they are. Children help with that; kids often have a way of putting things that sheds fresh light on a situation we take for granted – for example, the gender pay gap. Recently, the folks at Expert Market, a company that helps businesses locate services and equipment, deviated from their usual approach to gender pay gap research and instead turned their focus on a group of 5- to 7-year-olds. How these kids reacted to learning about the gender pay gap for the first time will make you rethink the things you already "know." Let's take a closer look.

Kids help us take a fresh look at the world around us. Sometimes, we can become so accustomed to our environment and our circumstances that we have a hard time actually seeing things the way they are. Children help with that; kids often have a way of putting things that sheds fresh light on a situation we take for granted – for example, the gender pay gap. Recently, the folks at Expert Market, a company that helps businesses locate services and equipment, deviated from their usual approach to gender pay gap research and instead turned their focus on a group of 5- to 7-year-olds. How these kids reacted to learning about the gender pay gap for the first time will make you rethink the things you already “know.” Let’s take a closer look.

kids gender pay gap

(Photo Credit: Zayabibu/Flickr)

The setup:

Do You Know What You're Worth?

First, the kids were paired off, one boy and one girl to a pair. Each participant was asked to perform the same task by themselves, while seated next to their partner. Some pairs sorted marbles, while others stacked cups. The task itself wasn’t important; what was important is that the kids did the task alone but seated next to a peer of the opposite sex.

Each child did as he or she was asked, successful completing the project (although not necessarily at the same time as the child sitting next to them). After completing the task, they looked up at the researcher with satisfaction.

Now enter the gender pay gap:

Next, the kids were rewarded or “paid” for the work they did. But, the boys were given more of a reward than the girls. They were then asked if they noticed who earned more and why they thought the pay was unequal.

They definitely noticed, but none of them appeared to think the discrepancy had anything to do with gender. One little girl who finished her task before her male peer said, “…because he took his time maybe?”

Next, the researchers explained things to the kids…

At this stage, the kids were told that “women are paid less worldwide for doing the same job as men.” Their reactions to this new information spoke volumes about the problem. Here are a few of the responses.

  • “No one knows that,” remarked one boy. “No one at all,” added the little girl sitting beside him.
  • “I think it would make them feel disappointed.”
  • “Even though I’m a boy and I get paid more, I think that women and men who do the same jobs should get the same amount of money.”

The kids were also asked how they would go about solving the problem. They explained that they would educate others about the issue and do things differently if they were in charge.

The results of this experiment are powerful. If we find it so hard to watch kids learning this awful truth about our world (and theirs), then we need to work even harder to change the reality as we move forward. Otherwise, these kids will be forced to eventually integrate this information into their consciousness (and likely their sense of the themselves as well) as we all have done.

Take a few minutes to watch the video released by Expert Market of the kids’ reactions. It’s powerful to see and hear their responses for yourself:

Kids React to Gender Pay Gap

Tell Us What You Think

What did you learn from the kids’ reactions? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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