She was awarded the honor in recognition of her groundbreaking work examining wage inequality between men and women.
The academic field has never been kind to women. But luminaries like Claudia Goldin have spent their lives shattering the glass ceiling to pave the way for future generations. Now, Goldin is being recognized for her lifelong work with one of the highest honors in the world. According to BBC, she has been awarded the 2023 Nobel Economics Prize for her research that advanced the understanding of the gender gap in the labor market.
Goldin has made history with this achievement as she is only the third woman to win the prize out of 93 economics laureates and the first to do so without sharing the award with male colleagues. In her study, she analyzed how the aspect of working has transformed for women over the years and the way the pay gap has not been complementary to it.
The objective of Goldin's study was to find the reasoning behind the pay gap experienced by women in almost every industry in the world. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences applauded her work by saying that it "advanced our understanding of women's labor market outcomes." In her research, she went through 200 years of data available on the U.S. workforce. Through the data, she pointed out how and why gender differences in earnings and employment rates changed over time.
Historically, much of the gender gap in earnings could be explained by differences in education and occupational choices. However, this year’s economic sciences laureate Claudia Goldin has shown that the bulk of this earnings difference is now between men and women in the same… pic.twitter.com/MGWou9hHZx— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 9, 2023
The Academy in its statement shared: "This year's Laureate in the Economic Sciences, Claudia Goldin, provided the first comprehensive account of women's earnings and labor market participation through the centuries." The research showed how industrialization, which effectively reduced domestic employment, led to fewer women in the professional field. All of this changed in the 1900s with the war and service economy, as more women came out of their homes for work.
Women were also introduced to more educational opportunities and choices with the advent of contraceptives, which further improved the standing of the gender in professional spaces. However, the issue of the pay gap still remained. In the past, education was pointed out as the biggest reason behind women being paid less than men. But as years have gone by, both men and women have performed equally well in terms of getting degrees. As of now, the biggest issue is the impact of having children and the way it derails a woman's career. This is not far from the truth as Lean In shared how 43% of women chose to take a break from their careers for children. In most of the cases, it is not easy for such individuals to get back into the workforce. Hence, we end up with so many executive positions filled up with men.
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"She has shown us that the nature of this problem or the source of this underlying gender gap changes throughout history and with the course of development," Randi Hjalmarsson, a member of the awarding committee shared. Prof. Hjalmarsson believes that this study will have a lingering effect, with policymakers using it to formulate regulations that will help women cope with their predicament and close in on the gap. The prize committee also presented the data that globally 50% of women participate in the labor workforce in comparison to 80% of men.
Goldin has always been a trailblazer when it came to her work. She was the first woman to work as a tenured professor in Harvard's economics department in 1989. In her interview with BBC, she talked about women in her field. "Even before students enter university they believe economics is a field more oriented to finance and management and women are less interested in those than are men," she said. If we explained economics was about "inequality, health, household behavior, society, then there'd be a much greater balance," Goldin added.