Just recently, Dr. Claudia Goldin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for her contribution to gender gap studies in the workforce 👏 She is the third woman to win the economic Nobel Prize and the first woman ever to win it solo! 🤩 We love seeing such huge achievements by fellow women, especially when they help spread awareness or actively influence the power of women in the professional world. Go, Goldin! 💪

To celebrate this amazing achievement, here’s a quick dive into Goldin’s incredible studies on the gender gap and how it might reflect the future of women in tech 👇

About Dr. Claudia Goldin 

Dr. Claudia Dale Goldin is an American economic historian, labor economist, and professor at Harvard. She has contributed significantly to many areas of economic research over the years, but since the 1980s, she has produced some of the most influential papers on women and the economy, transforming what we know about the gender gap into what it is today. 

What is the gender gap? 

In simple terms, the gender gap refers to any disparity between genders in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic contexts. 

When we look at the gender gap in the economic context, it primarily covers levels of participation, access, rights, remuneration, or benefits. And it’s in this area that Dr. Goldin has uncovered some incredible insights that have completely changed the way we look at the history of the gender gap 🔍 

5 insights you now know about the gender gap thanks to Goldin

1. Women’s history of paid employment is actually “U” shaped 

When you think of women’s involvement in the labor force as a graph, you probably envision it as a smooth line going up since as far back as we know. But that’s actually not the case

Uncovering data all the way from the eighteenth century, Goldin has revealed that prior to industrialization in the 1900s, a huge percentage of women were actually participating in agricultural labor. This “U” shaped curve of women’s employment history now shows us that there is no historically consistent association between women’s participation in the labor market and economic growth. 

2.  Marriage played a greater role than we thought 

You might have guessed that married women were less likely to work during the 20th century, but did you know there was actual legislation known as “marriage bars”? These would actually prevent and exclude women from continuing their employment as teachers or office workers if they got married. These legislations started in the 1930s during the Great Depression and continued for decades later.

3.  The contraceptive pill completely transformed women’s careers

Yes, there is a direct correlation between the introduction of the pill in the 1960s and the increase in career longevity and opportunities for women! This contraceptive method gave women more control and resulted in women delaying marriage and childbirth, allowing them to focus on their education and careers. The pill meant women could better plan their futures, which incentivized and expanded more career opportunities, such as economics, law, and medicine. Goldin found that the 1970s became a “pivotal” shift in the gender gap thanks to the pill. 

4. Is it a gender earnings gap or pay discrimination?

Though it may come as a surprise, the gender earnings gap reduced significantly during the Industrial Revolution (1820–1850) and again when demand for administrative and clerical services increased (1890–1930). The earnings gap essentially stayed the same between 1930 and 1980 despite economic growth, increasing education levels among women, and a huge increase in working women. 

Instead, pay discrimination grew significantly during the 20th century. Pay discrimination is inequality of pay between employees due to factors like race, religion, sex, etc. Why? Goldin shows that with the introduction of modern pay systems – i.e., monthly salaries not based on pieceworkemployers tended to benefit employees who would have longer, uninterrupted careers. 

5. Becoming a mother STILL negatively impacts your earning potential

Yep, there is one main explanation for why we still have a gender earning gap today – the motherhood effect. Goldin has shown how the difference between men’s and women’s pay remains small… until the arrival of a first child. 

As soon as the first child arrives, the trend changes; earnings immediately fall and do not increase at the same rate for women who have a child as they do for men, even if they have the same education and profession. Why? Nowadays, many sectors expect employees to be constantly available and flexible in the face of the employer’s demands.

Want to read more about these insights and other revelations by Goldin? We highly recommend this official publication from The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

What does this mean for the future of women? 

Since winning the Nobel Prize, Dr. Goldin said she hoped people would take away from her work how important long-term changes are to understanding the labor market. 

Today, the earnings gap between men and women in high-income countries is 10-20%, even though many of these countries have equal pay legislation and women are often more educated than men 😱 Yep, there’s still a long way to go. 

Our mission at allWomen is still as important and relevant as ever 💗- we’re committed to providing more upskilling opportunities for women, expanding career options, and working with tech partners to increase the percentage of women in the workforce! 🦸‍♀️