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  • Writer's pictureRachana Kadikar

Problematic Parenting: An Unspoken Contribution to Gender Inequality

While girls find pride in being called tomboys, boys feel insulted when they’re labelled “girly.” Young children are fed information about what they’re supposed to be like on the basis of their biological sex, and these misconceptions guide them throughout their lives. “Girl toys” are more about empathy, while “boy toys” are more about problem-solving. Girls learn about domestic skills and communication when playing with barbie dolls, while boys learn risk-taking and competition when playing with action figures. These children then internalize these stereotypes, which ultimately cause problems for women in societal structures designed to value male characteristics.

There exist minimal psychological differences between the genders, but they still face unequal outcomes. For example, men and women possess similar mathematical abilities, yet only 3% of U.S. mathematicians are women. Inequalities thus result from patriarchal gender stereotypes and the reinforcement of traditional specializations over any innate difference in ability or interest.

A common response to statistics about gender gaps in income is that women are simply different from men and don’t have the valuable characteristics to close these gaps like practicality or assertiveness. It is valid to argue that there do exist some biological differences between the genders, and that differences in upbringing can be necessary for the child’s own well-being. However, what those who make these arguments fail to consider is that there are other factors contributing to differences in outcome between genders.

Differences in parenting contribute to these gender disparities. Numerous studies have highlighted variations in parenting styles between raising a daughter and raising a son. A study at the University of Michigan has demonstrated that parents pay their sons twice as much in allowance than their daughters for the same chores. In addition, 70% of boys get an allowance compared to only 60% of girls. From a young age, girls are raised with the idea that household work shouldn’t be rewarded, and when they grow up, they spend three times as much time on unpaid household work than their male counterparts, regardless of employment status.

Fear is typically responsible for this variation in parenting: many parents think of their daughters as weaker and therefore impose more restrictions on them. Eventually, such restrictions culminate in decreased confidence when these women enter adulthood. They feel unequal to their male counterparts, and therefore don’t have the confidence to combat their internalized gender stereotypes.

By eliminating the barriers that contemporary society imposes on women from the beginning of their lives, we can close the wage gap and more equally divide unpaid household labor . Parents must take action to recognize their internal discriminatory biases when raising their children, so that current patriarchal standards fail to prevail in the future.

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