With holiday traditions and family gatherings at hand, it’s appropriate as we approach the year’s ending, to think about our gratitude for whatever we and other feminists have accomplished together in these uncertain and challenging times.  Someone celebrating a great honor in 2023 is Nobel Economics Prize winner Dr. Claudia Goldin.  Her phenomenal research on the importance of women in the American economy is a great gift to all of us.  

According to Stanford professor Dr. Jennifer Burns, Dr. Claudia Goldin’s recognition is both a “vindication” and a “reminder” of how male-dominated economics remains.  Even since the early 1970’s when women first entered the field in significant numbers, they have faced discouragement, discrimination and harassment.  In 2002 Harvard Economics Professor Claudia Goldin published her transformative research titled, ”The Power of the Pill:  Oral Contraceptives and Women’s Career and Marriage Decisions.”  With scant male interest, few economists studied women’s labor market outcomes or the potential impacts of rising female employment on growth and G.D.P.  2008 Nobel Economics prize-winner Paul Krugman noted how Claudia Goldin’s critical research proved that rising U.S. female employment had an impact equal to the effect of globalization on economic growth.  With increasing access to contraception in the 1970’s there was a “quiet revolution” in the economic role of women as they began to view work much the same way that men did, Dr. Goldin found.  Her profound 200 year historical overview revealed how women began delaying marriage, and were more likely to remain employed after marriage.  Women have outpaced men in education, poured into the labor force and found meaning in their work.  

In a working paper published the day she won the Nobel, titled “Why Women Won,” Professor Goldin noted that the period between 1963 and 1973 was crucial.  It included the passage of the Equal Pay Act, strongly advocated by AAUW.  The Roe v. Wade decision and admission of women into many Ivy League schools were other factors.  Women began keeping their birth names and divorcing more often.  Today Dr. Goldin has shown that women are more likely than those in previous generations to work throughout their lives.  Women have invested in their careers and increasingly work past retirement age.  Professor Goldin is 77 and still working.  She received her doctorate in 1972 and was the first woman to be offered tenure in Harvard’s economics department in 1989.  Dr, Goldin’s work is disproving the conventional wisdom that women are paid less because they CHOOSE lower-paying careers by showing that the pay gap is larger within occupations.  The largest gaps are in the highest earning professions, like medicine and law.  

Paul Krugman wonders after reviewing Goldin’s work, whether women’s victories “are in danger.”  “In the current political environment, I think we should also be worried about retrogression,“ he writes.  With strong advocates like Dr. Claudia Goldin, let us begin a new year armed with facts and ready to keep standing up for ALL women’s rights.  

Happy Holidays!

Lilly Gioia