From the NYT op-ed page:
By Nicholas Kristof
Veterinarians and pharmacists may be able to help us with more than our pets and our pills. Perhaps they can also guide America to a society that works better for America’s moms.
Women today outnumber men in colleges, in law schools and in medical schools. Yet while women seem better credentialed than men, their careers and incomes have stagnated.
Full-time female workers overall get 82 cents for each dollar made by men, and it’s much worse for those who are well educated. The median pay for female college graduates working full time is only 72 cents for every dollar earned by male equivalents, and the figure has barely budged for 30 years.
Women have constituted half of new accountants since the 1980s, but they still make up only 16 percent of equity partners in large accounting firms. Fifteen years after graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, 35 percent of men have made partner but only 18 percent of women.
“Women continue to feel shortchanged,” notes Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor, in a forthcoming book called “Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey Toward Equity,” from which most of the figures here are drawn. “They fall behind in their careers while earning less than their husbands and male colleagues.”
We often assume the fundamental cause of this inequity is old-fashioned discrimination, in the form of chauvinists who pay women less for the same work. It would be simpler if that were true — but Goldin cites evidence that while pay discrimination persists, it is not the central problem.
Early in careers, women earn almost as much as men, and those who don’t have children continue to (mostly) hold their own in the earnings race.
Nor is the gap the result primarily of women choosing lower-paid professions, as some claim. That may explain one-third of earnings gaps, not more.
The big challenge is that for most women, about 10 years into a career, babies make it much more complicated in jobs indifferent to parenting — and that suggests a larger, structural barrier to women’s career advancement.
“It’s systemic,” Goldin told me.
Babies are the cause of systemic sexism.
“We have to go back to the drawing board and think harder.”
We have to go back to the drawing board about this whole baby thing.
She argues that without addressing parenting, the solutions bandied about are “the economic equivalent of tossing a box of Band-Aids to someone with bubonic plague.”
Babies are like bubonic plague.
When a child is sick, one parent — it’s usually the mom — has to extricate from work and rush to the pediatrician. In theory, father and mother could trade off these responsibilities, but then neither would make partner. So in practice the man is often the designated career maximizer, while the woman sacrifices career advancement for the sake of family.
“Both are deprived,” Goldin writes. “Men forgo time with family; women forgo career.”
For an economist, Goldin seems oddly unfamiliar with the opening of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations about the advantages of division of labor at the pin factory.
This made me think of my own family. My wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and I believe deeply in gender equity — we wrote a book about it — and yet, looking back, I see this was true of us. I was typically the one who flew off to cover coups, leaving Sheryl (who has more graduate degrees than I do) to deal with the kids’ birthday planning or the bat in the bedroom.
But there is hope, and that takes us to veterinarians.
It used to be that vets, like top lawyers, financiers and management consultants, often worked long and irregular hours. Dogs triumphed; vet families suffered. But 77 percent of new vets are female, and they have nurtured a system of group and emergency practices that is more family friendly: If Rover gets sick at night you take him to a 24-hour emergency clinic. …
Could finance or consulting be structured more like this? If a C.E.O. is willing to trust his sick child to an on-call pediatrician, then why not let an on-call C.P.A. handle a weekend accounting question?
We need lazier CEOs.
In real life, I’ve known some couples who were rather happy with dad focusing on building the family business and mom focusing on the kids. I realize that’s a trope, but sometimes people find that there are reasons to behave in gender stereotypical fashion.