We know the gender pay gap exists — and, much to our displeasure, persists — but a new study sheds light on one of the surprising trends that’s perpetuating it. According to research by University College London (UCL)’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 UK, researchers found that the girls, on average, said they thought they had a 71% change of going to university, while 14% of girls felt certain that they’d go. Among the boys surveyed, on the other hand, less than 10% felt certain they’d go to university — and, on average, just 63% felt they had a chance of getting in.
Yet while girls were more confident about their educational future, their male counterparts were more likely to express interest in jobs with bigger salaries. The average hourly pay for the jobs that girls expressed interest in was £6.49 (or 27%) lower than the average hourly pay for the jobs that boys expressed interest in.
Camilla Turner, an Education Editor at Telegraph, reports 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 favour 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.”
Professor Lucinda Platt, who co-authored 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 teaching young girls how to lead. In fact, earlier this year, Sheryl Sandberg said empowering young 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.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Disc radio show, she added that “we 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.”