What happens to a woman’s career trajectory when her job is family-friendly? The results have not been what policy makers expected.
In their work lives, Swedish women receive generous paid maternity leave and and can opt for flexible work hours. Politically, the Swedish Parliament has gender balance as do 2 major Swedish political parties’ electoral slates. In France, 17 of President Hollande’s 34 cabinet ministers are female and the French Constitution was amended in 2010 to mandate corporate and public gender equality. In France, Sweden and across the EU, there is a commitment to end gender inequality.
And yet, in France and Sweden, in private industry, men are in charge. Among France’s 87 universities, only 8 presidents are female. In large French law firms, a vast minority of the partners are female. Even when their boards implement gender balance quotas, large corporations have few, if any, females CEOs.
Social scientists are not sure why women are not rising to the top when the work world has made it easier to combine work and family. One theory is children. When labor force participation enables women to divide their time and energy between work and the family, they select the balance. As a result, many do not become the professional alpha women who can compete against committed males who rise to the top.
Monday Gender Issues Posts
Sources and Resources: This excellent discussion of “The Plight of the Alpha Female” appeared recently in the City Journal while this paper, “Is There a Glass Ceiling in Sweden?” presents details on the the surprising results of the Swedish family-friendly work environment. Also, you might want to look at an avalanche of gender stats and ideas in this most recent 300+ page OECD report, “Closing the Gender Gap.”
Posted by: adminEcon
Tags: alpha females, Claudia Goldin, feminism, flextime, France, French Constitution, gender gap, glass ceiling, Kay Hymowitz, Marissa Mayer, President Hollande, Sheryl Sandberg, Sweden, work life balance
With Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore soon to become the Augusta National Golf Club’s first female members, I keep thinking about how women have become more valuable. The reason takes us back to the family.
Assume for a moment that a family is a production unit–sort of like a little factory. In the traditional set-up, women and men contribute resources. Women bring their ability to reproduce and maintain a household; men are responsible for reproduction and economic sustenance. In other words, men had real dollar value but not women. And not having dollar value mostly meant having very little value.
However, once a woman enters the labor force, her worth can be quantified. By contributing to her household’s economic sustenance, at home and beyond, she increases her value. You can see from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) charts that conclude this post, women are increasingly participating in the work force, women earn money, they spend money and they are more educated. Their activities and accomplishments bespeak value.
And, as a woman’s value changes, everywhere she gets greater bargaining power…even at Augusta.
My Sources: For scholarly analysis of women’s value in marriage markets and of the family as a production unit with resource inputs and goods and services outputs, Nobel laureate Gary Becker’s The Essence of Becker is a perfect source. Then, as a complement with more of a historical focus, I suggest Claudia Goldin’s papers and books while the BLS paper for the charts (below) provides valuable statistics. In addition, econlife has looked at the recent controversy at Augusta that involved IBM’s CEO. Finally, I thank Eduardo Porter for The Price of Everything, whose chapter, “The Price of Women,” inspired this post.
In The Wall Street Journal, a Chinese mother discusses her rules for her children which include: 1) only A’s, 2) no play dates, 3) no parts in school plays, 4) no TV, 5) no sleepovers, 6) play the piano or violin for several hours daily. Continuing with her rationale, she explains that she helps her children feel good about themselves because she makes sure that they excel.
By contrast, according to this article, “Western” style childrearing emphasizes treating children’s psyches gently. They compliment and encourage. They leave room for individual decision-making and choices.
Your comments about the different approaches?
The Economic Lesson
Defined as the education that makes us more productive, human capital can develop at home, at work, at school. As economists, we know that developing human capital is crucial for economic growth.
Calling the 20th century “The Human Capital Century” in The Race between Education and Technology, Harvard’s Claudia Goldin and Laurence Katz discuss the spread and impact of universal secondary education. As the United States moved from mandatory primary education in a handful of states to universal, non-gender education through secondary school for everyone, the benefits spread far beyond the schoolhouse. Economists cite the correlation between education and technological progress, between education and health, and the summary result, between education and growth.
The cost of having a family has gone up and it has gone down.
In its annual report on the average cost of raising a child in a middle income family, the Department of Agriculture said from 2008 to 2009, the amount has risen by 1%. A child born during 2009 is projected to cost $222,360 during its first 17 years.
Looking at cost slightly differently, a recent report from Harvard tells us that some women are experiencing less of a cost in pay and flexibility when they select work and family. Summarized by the NY Times, the report says that technology related professions have the lowest “mommy penalties” and certain medical specialties come next. By contrast, the corporate and financial world lags.
Still though, this report on wage trajectories for middle income women who work outside the home shows a flattening at child bearing. The overall wage loss during a lifetime is estimated at close to 30%.
The Economic Lesson
The opportunity cost of a decision is the next best alternative that is sacrificed. We might say then that the opportunity cost of working and motherhood is working and not having children. Higher income and job promotions is what many working mothers sacrifice.
Two recent studies about working moms give good news and bad.
The good first. If you work during your child’s first year, and you contribute considerably to the family income, or if your child care is very good, or if you are sensitive to your children, then his or her cognitive development will equal those of stay-at-home moms.
Now the bad. As a working mother with an MBA, 15 years after graduation, “lesser job experience, greater career discontinuity and shorter work hours…,” will contribute to a gender pay gap of 25%. By contrast, perhaps as illustrated by Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Condaleezza Rice, women whose careers resembled those of men earned equal pay.
The Economic Lesson
Labor force statistics include participation rates. Defined as a statistic that compares the size of the labor force to its potential total, female participation rates for June, 2010 were 58.5% while male participation rates were close to 71.3%.
The labor force includes all people who are employed, who are looking for a job, and who are 16 or older. There are close to 155 million people in the U.S. labor force.
Average gender wage gap differentials for different occupations are noted in an earlier econlife post. For different countries, you can look here.