Remote and hybrid work has made ultra-competitive workplaces across America more accessible to women, according to Harvard professor and Nobel Laureate Claudia Goldin.
Earlier this week, Goldin became the third woman in history to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on gender pay gaps and women’s participation in the workforce.
Her decades of research have shown that over time, the nature of the gender pay gap has evolved, with childbearing being a major factor in women being paid less than men in today’s America.
She coined the term “greedy jobs” to describe high-paying, high-pressure roles in fields like finance, management, law and academia, which demand workers be available at unusual times outside of their contracted hours.
In a recent interview with British news outlet The Independent, Goldin said women often weren’t able to advance in such positions because they tended to take a step back from the demanding additional hours when they had children.
“If you work twice the number of hours, you get more than twice the pay,” she said. “[But] it’s not just the number of hours, it’s which hours: Is it the dinner hour? Is it the weekend? Is it the vacation? Is it two in the morning?”
Remote work benefits
However, Goldin argued in a separate interview on Thursday that such positions had become more accessible thanks to changes brought about by the pandemic, and suggested that as long as companies continue offering hybrid work, those gains in gender equality could be sustained.
“I see the pandemic had a silver lining that we had never thought [possible],” she said in a televised conversation with Bloomberg. “We could always have done things remotely. You could always have done that M&A remotely, you could always have signed that contract remotely. You didn’t have to travel long distances to Beijing, and Tokyo, to Zurich and Paris.”
Because of remote dealmaking and meetings not being the norm before COVID, Goldin said women often used to be locked out of some of the “very best” high-income jobs that required frequent long-distance travel.
“Now that we’re cutting back on that travel, it’s going to make what I call ‘greedy jobs’ more flexible,” she told Bloomberg. “At the same time, we have flexible jobs that are becoming more productive. Think about the flexible job where you were told, ‘well you can work part-time, 25 hours a week’—well that wasn’t going to lead to very much of a promotion possibility. But if you can now combine it with some remote work, that will be much better.”
While the Harvard University economics professor said return-to-office policies “certainly could” unravel some of that progress, she noted that a lot of the mandates being issued by companies involved hybrid working, which would still benefit women.
“It still leaves the possibility that a person who wanted to work part-time can work three days in the office and two remotely,” she said. “So it just depends on what firms are doing. But at the same time, even though they’re calling people back into the office, they’re not necessarily saying that business travel is going to be the same as it once was.”
Advice for young women
Goldin also urged young female professionals to make careful considerations when it came to choosing an industry, an employer, and a romantic partner.
“Find the right partner, but also the two of you should find the right jobs so that you’re not giving up that much income if one person isn’t going to work massive hours or be on call,” she advised. “The problem is that children require at least one parent to be on call at home and that [often] means someone’s giving up a fair amount of income. So, you want to make sure that you’re in workplaces where there are good substitutes for you, so it isn’t as if you are the only person who could do the M&A, you’re the only person who could sign the contract.”
Goldin added: “What I want individual couples to realize is that they have to work together to make certain that they have more couple equity, and with more couple equity there will be more gender equality.”