Women’s Century-Long Journey Toward Equity
Claudia Goldin (Princeton, $38, 325 pages):
Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldin’s Career & Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey Toward Equity examines the career and family decisions women make as they try to narrow both the wage gap in the workplace and experience equitable sharing of responsibilities in the home. The most important insight Goldin makes is that there is no one path for college educated women when it comes to work and family; whereas in the early 20th century college educated women generally had to choose between a career and a family, today, there a wide variety of women (whom Goldin places in various archetypes based on her own extensive research) that make different choices in how they prioritize work and family, sometimes to the exclusion or detriment of the opposite sphere. In understanding that women are not uniform in their desires and decisions, Goldin adds a lot to current discussions about how to best support women in the workforce – and at home. Another focus of Goldin’s exploration of women’s choices surrounding work and family is the impact of time; she notes that “on-call, rush, emergency, evenings, and weekend time is demanded simultaneously from the home and the office.” She examines public policy influences that might help women balance home and office but says that the more important factor is cultural, from the demands employers make on employees to the duties shared by their male partners (“couple equity”).
For all the recent talk about abortion being necessary for women to take advantage of their educational and employment opportunities, Goldin has just one reference to abortion in her entire book, noting that abortion and contraception contributed to women marrying later which meant they could focus on education and employment before having a family. That trend, however, as well as long-term singlehood, has led to an increased demand for assisted reproduction, which Goldin writes about in much greater depth, perhaps indicating the next front in the culture wars.