In September's issue of Elle, Paul Ford, a father of three-year-old twins — one boy and one girl — writes about a singular solution to gender bias in the workforce: He will buy his way out of the problem. Ford and his wife, Maureen, he explains, are fighting the good fight at home when it comes to gender equality: they don't have "boy toys" and "girl toys," they avoid the princess-y underpants. But, despite their efforts, Ford is still convinced there is no way to protect his daughter from outside forces. After years of fretting, he's decided to start a trust fund to provide his daughter with $3 million, which he argues is the only way to level the playing field between his children when they one day navigate the working world. Before offering his controversial "solution" to the problem, Ford backs up his worries both with statistical and personal evidence. It is estimated that women earn $.78 for every dollar earned by a man (and that gap only widens for women of color). Furthermore, Ford and his wife have recently faced the much more complex and frustrating issue of gender bias in hiring, particularly when it comes to working mothers. The couple used to be on equal footing, but since having children, Maureen is the one who has been unable to rejoin the workforce despite being both qualified and tenacious at trying to get a foot in the door. Ford doesn't want that for his daughter, and his solution to the problem is money. At first glance, I wanted to give Ford the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he's just a particular variation on the privileged, panicked parent. But, on closer inspection of the piece — and Paul Ford himself — this whole thing reads like A Modest Proposal for the Internet Age. Looking to solve gender bias? No problem, just give each little girl $3 million, done.
This, Ford tweeted his after getting an email from a reader apparently outraged by Ford's "Jump The Gap" fund, as he calls it. Of course, it's obvious that Ford's not really fixing anything — not even for his daughter. If gender bias still exists when his three-year-old hits the workforce (and it likely will, statistically speaking), she will still be subject to it. Money will not inoculate her from unequal pay or prejudicial hiring practices. One can sort of see how he might have conceived of this as a theoretical solution, but in practice Ford seems to be bypassing the big picture, creating a potentially catastrophic family dynamic, and — despite his fight against princess underpants — adding a whole new level of disparity between male and female in his own home. Furthermore, his solution is one that only an extremely privileged minority could possibly achieve, and so to present it as a viable option to the general public is so nonsensical that it borders on trolling. And, that's likely what this is:
Even if his "Jump The Gap" fund is actually theoretical, perhaps he pitched this piece as a conversation-starter around a topic that does need attention, urgently. But, thus far, he's mostly drawn attention to himself. The problem with his solution is the same problem with any trust fund fix: It benefits only him. As for his daughter, who knows? Whether or not her dad actually does follow through with this trust fund plan, she will one day grow up and be able to find this story — as could all any school admissions boards and potential employers she may encounter. What assumptions might they draw from this? What might assumptions might she draw about herself? Will she think her father was looking out for her best interest or that he thought her prospects so meager that she needed to have $3 million more than her brother just to make it in the world? Ford first details all the efforts he makes to teach his children the right lessons about what girls can do and accomplish. "We tell them that a girl can do anything, be anything," he says. Then he wrote a few thousand more words about how fucked her future is because she is a female. How's that for a lesson learned?