How can women overcome the challenges of greedy work and marital equity for career and family?

The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in many dimensions of society, including between couples who sought to balance competing relationships work and family demands. However, the time and energy requirements of having both a career and a family, especially for women, have changed over time and have a rich and significant history. Claudia Goldineconomics professor Henry Lee at Harvard University, explains it all in his carefully researched book Career & Family: Women’s Century-long Journey to Equity.

As Claudia notes in the interview that follows, “history is necessary to understand how barriers and norms first appear and then disappear, and how changes in the economy and society in general affect women” .

As the male part of a dual-career couple with young children, and the one with more flexibility in their academic work (I can drive an amazing v6-powered van – with “rocket boosters” like my boys like to say), I’ve found that even though we don’t have parents or other helpers nearby to help us with our kids, we’re lucky that only one of us has the job with no more “greedy work” that requires him to be constantly present in person and around the hospital teaching students and residents.

As a family, we have found a way to balance “couple equity” by taking on tasks that are essential in a way that suits our work schedules, personal strengths and abilities, and exchanging opportunities in multiple moves across the country to allow us each to have opportunities to advance in our respective careers. Yet every day remains a constant challenge to deal with an endless array of parenting chores and emergencies.

But for many couples, because high-profile careers require heavy investment in the beginning to succeed later, it becomes a trade-off for dual-career couples where money stays on the table if everything is split 50-50. at home. At the end of the day, a parent has to be on duty in the home, and it’s still most often the wife. As Claudia explains so well in this interview, it’s the greedy work and the structure of work and careers that remain an obstacle for many women who hope to be able to reconcile a career and a high-powered family. Finding a way to meet the demands of greedy labor and couple equity is most likely crucial to helping women achieve workplace equity.

Why did you write the book Career & Family?

I had, for many years, written about two aspects of women’s lives.

The first is the evolution of women in the labor force. It explains why women became half of the American workforce when they were perhaps only 10% in the 19th century. What has been the interaction between women’s employment and their age at marriage? And how did the idea that women could have careers and families evolve? Thus, the first issue is centered on the history of women, work and the family.

The other part concerns equity: equity between couples and equity between the sexes in remuneration, promotion and occupation. Gender gaps in pay and employment have narrowed considerably but remain.


At some point, I realized that these two parts of the story had to come together. The book highlights the enormous progress we have made. Yet it also shows what keeps us from going to the “last mile”. It is only because we have made tremendous progress in education and employment, and many of the obvious obstacles have been removed, that the reasons for the remaining differences have become so clear.

The book was started long before the pandemic, but it took on new urgency with the lockdown. Everything I had said about the reasons for the remaining differences became clearer during the pandemic. When the schools closed, the charges increased for all parents. Wealthy workers took refuge at home and were able to keep their jobs. The pandemic has amplified the factors raised in the book – the importance of flexible working, the cost to women of having children’s careers, and the cost to women of the inequality of the couple regarding the unequal division of labor and family. .

Based on your research, how have things changed or not changed for women in the workplace?

You first need to know the period to spot the change for women in the workplace. The changes in women’s participation in the labor market, occupations and incomes have been prodigious since 1900. The change has also been enormous since 1950 and even since 1970. But the change in some areas has not been great enough since , say, 2000. The labor force participation rate of women – of almost all education groups and almost all age groups – has been stalled. (The only group of women who saw a significant increase in participation were women over the age of about 55 between about 1990 and the 2010s.) The gender pay gap has narrowed somewhat in the past two decades, but not as much as it did before. This may be understandable as it has shrunk a lot. But it seems a bit stuck. Why this is is part of the book. The other part of the book is about the change that preceded it. Let me discuss this a bit.

The book divides the last century or more of college-educated women into five distinct groups and shows the huge changes that have taken place as we move from one to the next.

The five groups differed significantly in their outcomes – their marriage rates, birth rates, occupations and employment. They went from being able to have That is a career or a family to expect to have both a career and a family.

Understanding this story clears the air and allows us to see the next steps. History is needed to understand how barriers and norms first appear and then disappear, and how changes in the economy and society in general affect women.

The pay gap is one aspect of gender differences that is gaining considerable attention today. We usually express the gender pay gap as a single number (by “we” I mean the US Bureau of Labor Statistics). It is expressed as the ratio of women’s weekly earnings to men’s weekly earnings for those working full time, full year. Also, the ratio is the median female income divided by the median male. It’s a bite. The ratio is lower than the actual numbers as an attempt is made to control hours worked and reduce the long right tail (earnings at the top) by using the median.

Expressed in this way, there have been great advances, especially in the 1980s. Much of this progress is due to the fact that the education and work experience of women have advanced significantly compared to those of men. . They prepared better for demanding jobs and remained more active in the labor market. Thus, considerable progress has been made.

But there is also considerable frustration that there has not been more. Frustration was expressed in terms of doing something about sexual harassment, biased managers and the lack of information about others’ salaries. But, while these are lofty goals, they won’t make much of a difference in closing the gender pay gap. The reason for this is that it is largely due to the impact of “greedy work” and the way couples adapt to it.

What are the main challenges to be met in order to improve what you call couple equity?

The employee who is ready to work at all hours – evenings, weekends, holidays and who is on call in the office – gets the greatest rewards. When these rewards are disproportionate to time spent, which means that doubling the time, more than doubling the income, we get “greedy work”. It is not necessarily the number of hours, it is often “what” hours (weekend, holidays, dinner, evening). And the relationship can also be dynamic and part of the “up or out” system common to many high-end jobs. Work harder now and get great rewards in the future (eg partner, tenure, first promotion).

If a person has children or other family responsibilities, someone must be on duty at home, even if that person has a job. The “on-call” person will occupy a more flexible, less demanding and therefore less remunerative position, even on time.

Women are usually the ones on duty at home. It is the iniquity of the couple. Thus, the flip side of couple inequality is gender inequality. Even same-sex couples with children are strongly attracted to this type of specialization and often give up couple equity (but do not add to gender inequality).

Why can’t dual-career families equally share the joys and duties of parenthood? They could, but if they did they would leave money on the table, often a lot. The 50-50 couple might be happier, but they would be poorer.

If labor were less greedy the price of the couple’s equity would be reduced. This can happen in a variety of ways, with some happening organically and others because workers use voice and output. For example, groups have been formed so that professionals in medical fields like pediatrics and obstetrics can have more flexibility.

The pandemic has reduced the cost of flexibility in various ways. Businesses and workers have learned to use technologies that enable remote meetings, including those with a large number of participants. Even though we’ve had conferencing software since the 1990s, we didn’t rely heavily on these tools until recently. The number of working hours may remain the same, but employees have more control over free hours, such as those just before a child goes to bed or when the family is having dinner together. If meeting a client in Tokyo or Beijing can be done efficiently without ever flying, the parent who has to be home at night can take on that job – and that person is likely a woman.

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