Women continue to face a gender gap in the workplace. They still face many obstacles that make it more challenging for them to reach their full potential. They are generally paid less and have fewer opportunities to advance.
While many point to men as the reason for women being held back at work, Nobel Prize-winning research by professor Claudi Goldin suggests there is more to this situation. The reason women lag behind men is because of the way work is structured.
Below our executive search recruiters summarize this thought-changing research.
Who is Claudia Goldin?
On October 10, 2023, Claudia Goldin became the first solo woman to win the Nobel in economics. The Harvard professor won the award for her work on the workplace gender gap.
She was the director of the NBER’s Development of the American Economy program from 1989 to 2017. Goldin has published seven books and dozens of papers over the years. She is best known for her historical work on women in the U.S. economy.
Goldin’s Research on Women at Work
Goldin’s extensive research focuses on why women were less likely to work and make less money than men. Goldin looked through 200 years of labour data to explore the reasons why gaps still exist despite women now graduating from college at a higher rate and performing better in school than men.
As summarized by the New York Times, here are the main findings in her research that have created the gap that currently exists:
The gap starts when children are born
- Women today work throughout their lives more than previous generations.
- Gender pay and career equality are initially similar for men and women but change when children enter the picture.
- There is a slight drop in the percentage of women working in their late 30s and early 40s.
- Mothers are now less likely to quit their jobs after having their first child, but some may temporarily leave the workforce later, despite trying not to do so.
The workforce rewards long work hours
- The gender inequity in the workforce is perpetuated by employers rewarding long, inflexible working hours.
- Those who scale back or are unavailable on weekends or evenings face disadvantages.
The gap does not exist because women choose lower-paying careers
- The conventional belief that the gender pay gap is due to women choosing lower-paying careers is disproven.
- Research shows that the pay gap is larger within occupations, particularly in high-earning fields like medicine and law.
- If equally productive workers were paid based on hourly output, the pay gap would disappear.
Work flexibility is a key factor in eliminating the gap
- Bridging the remaining gender gaps necessitates flexibility in when and where work is done.
- Fundamental changes to the American workplace are required, with the potential to reshape it entirely, although recent events like the pandemic may make such changes more feasible for white-collar workers.
How do we fix the gender gap?
Goldin suggested that women need more help from their partners to balance childcare and work responsibilities.
But even so, another often overlooked barrier exists. Kids get out of school before the workday is out. So, it’s often left to mom to pick up the kids. The presence of after-school childcare programs can make it easier for women to work.
Even though there is still work to be done, Goldin remains optimistic about creating greater balance in the workplace.