Filipino kids are one of the most "matulungin," according to a recent survey of 30 countries. But based on a new study by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), girls between 5 and 9 years old are spending 30 percent more time on household chores than boys their age worldwide.
The organization found that in South Asia, Middle East, and North Africa, girls between 10 and 14 years old spend nearly double the amount of time on household chores compared to boys. That's 14 hours per week, or at least two hours per day.
There is no question that chores are crucial for building your children up for success. But, without realizing it, we may not be be giving our girls the fair treament. We assume our daughters have an innate desire to take on the role of “nurturer,” so we assign them chores like preparing food, cleaning and caring for others. But we don't assign it to our boys because it's not a "manly" thing to do.
As the UNICEF study highlights, these domestic duties that fall only on girls limits their outlook and potential while they are still young. It leads the girls to think these are the roles they are suited for, narrowing the focus of their ambitions. It also has lasting effects on their self-esteem and self-worth, according to UNICEF.
Another study recently published in the journal Science found that as young as 6 years old, girls already believe that men were smarter and more talented than women. This stereotype hinders them from pursuing careers in fields like math and physics, said the researchers, causing gender gaps in “many prestigious occupations.”
While more parents are becoming open-minded and letting their children be whatever they want to be — even if it’s against the norm — the studies above remind us that we still have a long way to go to remove gender biases. UNICEF offers a golden rule before we increase this gender gap further: have a more even distribution of chores.
“Disparities in the burden of household chores and negative gender patterns must be addressed before they become cemented in adulthood,” the organization says.
“Supporting girls to stay in school and be involved in sports, play and other leisure and asset-building activities —and investing in infrastructure, technology, and child care to ease uneven burdens — can help put girls on the path to empowerment.”
Another way to prove to our girls that they can really be and do anything is to find them role models, and the first ones are their parents.
Mel Panabi, a dad of two, says in his article for SmartParenting.com.ph, “A boy learns how to respect women from the way his dad treats his mom. A girl learns self-confidence and strength from her mom’s own courage to speak up and go after what she wants. Your family helps define what is 'normal' for kids. They may get conflicting messages from society, but their instincts are shaped by what they see at home.”
It’s also important for girls to grow up exposed to strong female role models. “Talk about women who’ve made differences in science and research, broke Olympic records, or excelled in a career that was traditionally dominated by men. Give books where women aren’t princesses waiting to be saved,” says Panabi.
Merlee Cruz-Jayme, a mom of four and an award-winning advertising executive says in a previous Smart Parenting featurethat there are two barriers that keep girls from succeeding. The first is thinking you’re “not good enough.” The second is gender inequality.
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“People think gender equality will help women fulfill all their goals. I think the biggest factor for us to reach our goals is "opportunity equality." We have to keep on breaking that "glass ceiling" to prove to the world that we are just as good or even better,” she writes.
Sara Blakely, the mom of four behind Spanx, the shapewear that women have described as life changing, says that when it comes to success, women need to have a good relationship with achieving and feeling worthy of their accomplishments.
“I think about how women in our society have been told to downplay it. We weren’t encouraged to be better than the guys, and we’ve sort of got this baked in our DNA that we want men to like us and to be desirable to men, and that’s been going on for a really long time,” she says.
But even if your child is exposed to all these exceptional people, never forget that the family still has the strongest influence on your son and daughter. Make it a point to start the conversation about gender roles at home. We don't want our kids to experience gender stereotyping and inequality, but it only happens if we let it.