''We teen-age girls must become aware of earning disparities between men and women now and demand equal wages,'' states a 15-year-old girl who is a veteran baby sitter.
Writing in the January issue of Seventeen, Jennifer Wood of Ontario, Canada, says: ''I find it exasperating to work for three hours and earn $4, knowing that a boy my age may shovel snow or mow lawns for the same amount of time and earn between $7 and $12.''
Until teen girls unite in voicing their complaints and in setting wage standards, Miss Wood says, the situation will not improve. ''Teen girls, accustomed to society's bias, underestimate their skills and so do not balk at unfair payments,'' she asserts.
To help ensure fair wages for baby sitters, she advises teens to unite with other baby sitters. ''Check with other sitters to find out the going rate in your neighborhood, and try to get everyone to agree on a minimum fee,'' she emphasizes. In addition, she advised baby sitters to state their rates in advance, rather than just taking whatever payment is offered; to charge more for special times, such as late evening or holidays; and to let parents know in advance what tasks are considered ''extra'' - such as cooking dinner or walking the dog - and how much extra you charge for them.
Miss Wood explains that she became aware of the wage discrimination recently after learning what her parents pay a neighborhood boy to do yardwork. After an exceptionally frustrating and exhausting baby-sitting job, she says, ''the parents finally came home, and I got a thanks and a $10 bill - for 11 hours of hard work!'' Back home, she admitted her frustration increased when she learned that her parents just ''paid the boy down the block $3 to shovel snow off our front walk - a task that takes 15 minutes!
''Many might argue that outdoor work is strenuous, but caring for a toddler can be strenuous, too,'' she states. Additionally, she says, baby-sitting requires certain skills that manual labor does not, such as ''diplomacy, imagination, and patience. It's time parents realize that baby sitters can be an important part of a child's upbringing - and start putting their money where their child's welfare is concerned.''
However, Miss Wood adds that baby sitters must fight for better wages in a realistic manner if they expect any real gains. ''Don't make the jump in rates too big,'' she cautions. ''It's a small comfort to know you're right if you're unemployed.''