Are boys and girls treated differently? I Oxford Open Learning

Are boys and girls treated differently?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the gender pay gap. That is the difference between the average hourly rate earned by men and women. The gap is getting smaller, with men earning 18.4% more than women in 2017, compared to 27.5% in 1997. It is, however, still quite a large gap. But is this gap in wages the only way in which the genders are treated differently?

A survey by (a website where parents can pay their children pocket money) found that boys, even at that stage in life, earn an average 15% more than girls for the same chores. They looked at 3,800 jobs that parents registered on the site and found boys earned on average £1.46 a chore, compared to £1.25 for girls. The biggest difference was laying the table. Boys were paid £1.59, girls only 51p. Boys were given £2.30 for doing homework, but girls £1.08 on average. The same applies in other countries. A survey in Australia found that boys spend 2.1 hours a week on chores, compared to 2.7 hours for girls, but the boys earned $48 compared to $45 for the girls.

Are differences in pay and pocket money the only difference in the way boys and girls are treated today?

Toys are still a big area where boys and girls are treated very differently. Go into any toy store and you will most probably find grey and blue toys for boys and pink, sparkly toys for girls. Unicorns are very popular at the moment, but they are often pink or lilac or white, and aimed at girls rather than boys. In 2012, Top-Toy (a top Scandinavian toy retailer) said that their Christmas catalogue would be gender neutral, with girls waving toy guns and boys playing with dolls.

Lego is often promoted as gender neutral, but it has in fact been heavily criticised for being gender specific. In 2011, 90% of Lego users were boys. In 2012, Lego introduced the “Friends” lego sets, aimed at girls. Sales tripled to girls. But many of Lego’s products still seem to appeal to boys. The current Lego range focusses on cars, buildings and Star Wars. Whilst girls can, of course, play with any of these toys, the marketing push seems to be aimed at boys.


In the 1960s and 70s, girls were underachieving in education. Measures were put in place to try and change this and sure enough, the educational achievement of girls began to improve. However, at the same time, the educational achievement of boys started to decrease. Boys are starting to get better in the education system, but their progress tends to be at a slower rate than girls. This is particularly true of working class boys. The education system is reviewing this and looking at ways to improve education for girls and boys, for all children.

These are just some examples of how girls and boys can be treated differently. There are many more, such as in sports, appearance, parental attitudes to children and so on. But next time you go into a toy shop, have a good look around you and see how much does change in society.

See more by

Stay Connected