How to help teen girls navigate the ups and downs of their first job

By Jill Zelmanovits, CEO and Keynote Listener, Girl Guides of Canada

Whether they’re life guarding, scooping ice cream or babysitting, a job can seem like a pretty great way for a teenage girl to spend her summer. Meeting friends, building up her resume and adding to her bank account – what could be better? Well it turns out that a girl’s summer job can also come with workplace hazards like harassment and getting paid less than the boys she works with.

As our new report Girls on the Job reveals, 13% of girls ages 12-18 experience sexual harassment or assault during their summer jobs – whether it’s cat-calls or being subjected to sexual jokes or unwanted touching. We also discovered a nearly $3.00 per hour gender wage gap in full-time summer jobs between girls and boys. Yes, the wage gap starts young.

When my own daughter started babysitting as a teenager, I didn’t pay too much attention to her workplace experience. (And yes, babysitting is a real job.) But after she told me what she was getting paid – which seemed kind of low to me – I wondered if I was inadvertently setting her up for a working life of lowballing her own pay expectations. As parents there’s plenty we can do to boost our daughters as they jump into the world of work:

Encourage her to negotiate
Whether it’s for her allowance or how many friends she can have for a sleepover, be open to hearing your daughter negotiate and advocate for herself. If your daughter is starting to work, help her role play conversations with potential employers. Encourage her to ask questions about pay and job expectations and help her make it a habit to advocate for herself.

Talk about money and pay
Summer jobs are the perfect opening for talking with your daughter about the value of money and what her time and skills are worth. Before she starts a job, take time to discuss how pay rates are set and help her figure out the going rate for the kind of work she’s doing. If she’s in Girl Guides, look for the Money Sense activities in our Girls First program for ideas on talking about money.

Connect her with role models
At Girl Guides, we know the powerful benefits of giving girls opportunities to connect with women mentors from all backgrounds. Your daughter might already have big ideas and dreams about her future. Work together to identify women you already know who’ve done amazing things or work in a field your daughter is interested in.

Empower her to jump in
Your daughter may already have big ideas for her future or she might still be thinking about dozens of different options. The summer is a great time for her to explore what’s open to her. Perhaps she’s interested in landscaping instead of retail, or more curious about working at a soccer camp instead of babysitting. Encourage her to jump into whatever sector she’s interested in. Be there to support her if she needs it.

Learn more about what girls in Canada have to say about the issues impacting them with our girl-driven research and insights. #LetGirlsLead

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