10 October 2023 |

Shattering Glass Ceilings and Closing Pay Gaps: Claudia Goldin’s Nobel Win


Profile of Harvard Economist Claudia Goldin – IMF Finance & Development  Magazine | December 2018

Claudia Goldin made history this Monday when she was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her groundbreaking research into women’s progress in the workforce. As the third woman to ever receive this prestigious award, Goldin is also the first to receive it solo, and the world is richer for it

Her groundbreaking research has not only cast light upon the historical journey of women in the labor market. Still, it has also unveiled a disconcerting contemporary challenge: the insidious gender wage gap that persists, even when individuals occupy the same professional strata. 

Dr. Goldin has also illustrated how the process of closing the gender wage gap has been uneven throughout history. Recently, progress in closing has been halting: Today, women in the United States make a little over 80 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Historically, disparities in earnings between genders could be chalked up to divergent educational and occupational choices. Yet, Dr. Goldin’s meticulous research, spanning two centuries of American data, presents a different narrative. 

Today, the bulk of the gender earnings chasm resides within the identical occupational spheres, and it ruthlessly widens its maw after the birth of a woman’s first child.

The Nobel committee in Stockholm has paid homage to Dr. Goldin’s pioneering work, recognizing her revelation that the employment prospects of married women plummeted during the 1800s as the economy transitioned from agrarian to industrial. 

However, their fortunes rose again in the 1900s with the burgeoning service sector. Dr. Goldin’s research vividly illustrates the inextricable links between economic structures and the evolving societal norms governing women’s roles in the family and workplace.

But it was in the 1970s that history witnessed a seismic shift. Dr. Goldin aptly christened this era as “revolutionary.” 

It was when American women started marrying later, embracing higher education, and making remarkable strides in the workforce. We cannot underestimate the liberating effect of easily accessible birth control pills. It emancipated women from the shackles of early marriages, allowing them the time to explore their identities beyond the confines of their homes.

However, the bitter truth is that despite the upward trajectory of women’s education levels, the gender wage gap remains a stubborn fixture across the globe.

Dr. Goldin’s research has brought the stark reality that the earnings disparity between men and women is now most pronounced among individuals sharing duplicate job titles, especially after a woman’s first childbirth. This revelation underscores the urgent need for a holistic approach to address this issue.

Dr. Goldin’s work, a testament to the enduring influence of historical norms on contemporary behavior and economic outcomes, resonates powerfully. It’s a stark reminder that true gender equality in the workplace hinges on addressing the earnings disparity and the burdensome inequalities within households – starting with motherhood.

Enter fintech, the game-changer in this formidable battle for pay equity. Fintech companies possess the tools to craft innovative solutions to bolster mothers in pursuing financial independence, particularly during the pivotal post-childbirth period. A few weeks ago, I wrote about fintech’s role in promoting pay transparency and equity with insights from Reshma Saujani. 

Fintech companies have an opportunity to aid women post-childbirth and close the gender pay gap. They can offer flexible savings and investment accounts, personalized financial planning and education, and return-to-work support programs. These initiatives enable women to make informed financial decisions, maintain their career paths, and achieve economic equality. 

Benefits include greater security, improved literacy, and a more equitable society.

Here are six fintech firms working to provide mothers and families with the necessary tools. Keep your eye on these:

  1. UOB: The Singapore-based UOB bank is pioneering the “Lady’s Savings Account,” providing women with insurance coverage tailored to female-specific health concerns, all based on their savings. This initiative nurtures financial prudence and safeguards women’s health and well-being.
  2. BMPB: Access Bank’s “Better Mama, Better Pikin” (BMBP) mobile wallet in Nigeria offers micro-savings and insurance services for expectant mothers. With minimal monthly savings requirements, this program provides vital financial protection to women and their families.
  3. Goalsetter: In the United States, Goalsetter is a financial education company empowering parents, including mothers, to learn about money via a mobile app. This ingenious approach instills financial responsibility from a young age, with parents in the driver’s seat.
  4. Women’s World Banking: This organization is at the forefront of promoting safe savings for underbanked women. Initiatives like “BETA Savings” in Nigeria and “Pafupi Savings” in Malawi facilitate women’s savings through accessible channels with no minimum balance or monthly fees.
  5. Kiya.ai: Indian fintech Kiya.ai collaborates with the NGO ARMMAN to provide pregnant women and mothers access to preventive information and services. This initiative empowers women with accessible and affordable healthcare, bolstering maternal well-being.
  6. Mums & Co: Australia-based Mums & Co is a digital sanctuary for entrepreneurial mothers, fostering connections, providing guidance, and offering essential resources to fuel their ambitions.

Dr. Goldin’s Nobel-worthy work has illuminated the enduring gender disparities in earnings and labor force participation. Fintech companies are emerging as crucial allies in the fight against these disparities, offering innovative financial solutions tailored to mothers and women in the workforce. 

These initiatives serve not only individual women; they are the vanguard in the ongoing struggle for pay equity, forging a path toward a more equitable and inclusive society. 

As we celebrate Dr. Goldin’s Nobel Prize, let us also herald fintech’s indispensable role in crafting a brighter future for women, families, and society overall.