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The Nobel Prizes 2023 to Claudia Goldin and Nargis Mohammadi, and The Nobel Prize Gender Gap

Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences to Claudia Goldin for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes



The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences to Claudia Goldin, American economic historian labour economist and Harvard professor, “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes”.

Dr. Goldin was the first woman to be offered tenure in Harvard’s economics department, in 1989. "Even before students enter university, they believe economics is a field more oriented to finance and management and women are less interested in those than are men," she said. If we explained economics was about "inequality, health, household behaviour, society, then there'd be a much greater balance," she said.

Her wide-ranging work has delved into the causes of the gender wage gap, the evolution of women’s participation in the job market over the past 200 years, and the implications for the future of the labour force. The importance of Dr Goldin's research emerges and is absolutely relevant nowadays, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on women in the workforce.

"Claudia Goldin provided the first comprehensive account of women's earnings and labour market participation through the centuries. […] Her research reveals the causes of change, as well as the main sources of the remaining gender gap."; she “advanced our understanding of women's labour market outcomes", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said, pointing to her work examining 200 years of data on the US workforce, showing how and why gender differences in earnings and employment rates changed over time.


Dr Goldin's research

In a nutshell, Claudia Goldin provided the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labour market participation through the centuries. Her research reveals the causes of change, as well as the main sources of the remaining gender gap. Dr Goldin's research revealed that female workforce participation did not follow a consistently upward trajectory over the entire period studied, but rather displayed a U-shaped pattern. Initially, the participation of married women declined during the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society in the early nineteenth century. However, it subsequently began to rise again with the expansion of the service sector in the early twentieth century. Goldin attributed this trend to a combination of structural changes and evolving societal norms regarding women's roles and responsibilities in the context of home and family life.

In her study, Dr. Goldin characterizes the 1970s as a transformative era, particularly in the United States, where women began to delay marriage, pursue higher education, and make significant advancements in the workforce. During this period, the increased accessibility of birth control pills eliminated what Dr. Goldin refers to as a powerful incentive for early marriage, affording women more time to cultivate their identities beyond the confines of their homes. In the 1800s, the advent of industrialization led to a reduction in the workforce participation of married women. However, in the 1900s, their employment rates rebounded as the service sector expanded. The progression was further fuelled by increased educational opportunities for women and the introduction of the contraceptive pill. Historically, gender pay disparities were primarily attributed to differences in education and career choices. However, Dr. Goldin's research has revealed that the majority of the income gap now exists among men and women holding similar positions, as noted by the Nobel committee. Notably, this discrepancy becomes pronounced following the birth of a woman's first child.

For example, in a comprehensive 15-year study involving business school students at the University of Chicago, Dr Goldin and her team observed in one of their studies that the wage gap began to expand approximately a year or two after a woman gave birth to her first child.


Visual representation of the so-called parenthood effect:

Furthermore, Dr Goldin has demonstrated that the journey towards narrowing the gender wage gap has been uneven throughout history. Recent efforts to bridge this gap have been sluggish, with women in the United States presently earning slightly more than 80 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

"Claudia Goldin's discoveries have vast societal implications," said Randi Hjalmarsson, a member of the committee awarding the prize. "She has shown us that the nature of this problem or the source of this underlying gender gap changes throughout history and with the course of development," she said.


Describing her as "a detective", Prof Hjalmarsson said her work had provided a foundation for policymakers in this area around the world.


Globally, about 50% of women participate in the labour market compared to 80% of men, but women earn less and are less likely to reach the top of the career ladder, the prize committee noted.

The Gender pay gap topic was explored in a previous blog piece, please find more here: EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK – EU Directive on Pay Transparency.


Women and The Nobel Prize



Dr Goldin is the third woman to have won the Economics Nobel, which was first awarded in 1969, and the first one to be honoured with it solo rather than sharing the prize.

Elinor Ostrom was the first woman to win the Economics Prize in 2009, which she was awarded jointly with Oliver E Williamson for research on economic governance. In 2019 Esther Duflo shared the award with her husband Abhijit Banerjee, and Michael Kremer, for work that focused on poor communities in India and Kenya.

The Nobel Prize and the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Memory of Alfred Nobel have been awarded to women 65 times between 1901 and 2023. Only one woman, Marie Curie, has been honoured twice, with the Nobel Prize in Physics 1903 and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1911. This means that 64 women in total have been awarded the Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2023, against 894 men and 27 organisations.


The graph below was created in 2020, therefore, some data are missing. Nevertheless, it gives a general idea about The Nobel Prize Gender Gap:




Narges Mohammadi, The Nobel Peace Prize 2023

Dr Goldin was not the only woman being awarded the Nobel Prize in 2023. Indeed, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2023 to Narges Mohammadi “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all”.


Narges Mohammadi is a remarkable woman, a fierce advocate for human rights, and a dedicated freedom fighter, her brave struggle has come with tremendous personal costs: altogether, the regime has arrested her 13 times, convicted her five times, and sentenced her to a total of 31 years in prison and 154 lashes. Narges Mohammadi is still in prison as you read this article.

In the 1990s, while pursuing her studies in physics, Narges Mohammadi was already establishing herself as a staunch advocate for gender equality and women's rights. Following her academic pursuits, she ventured into the professional world as an engineer and simultaneously contributed as a columnist for various reform-oriented newspapers. It was in 2003 when she joined forces with the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran, an organization founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

In 2011, Narges Mohammadi experienced her first arrest, facing a lengthy prison sentence for her unwavering commitment to aiding incarcerated activists and their families. Two years later, after being granted temporary release on bail, she wholeheartedly immersed herself in a campaign against the use of the death penalty. Iran has consistently been among the nations with the highest execution rates per capita. Shockingly, just since January 2022, more than 860 individuals have faced the death penalty in Iran. Her relentless activism against the death penalty eventually led to her re-arrest in 2015, resulting in additional years spent behind bars. During her time in prison, Narges Mohammadi began to vocally oppose the systematic use of torture and sexual violence against political prisoners, particularly women, in Iranian correctional facilities.

Narges Mohammadi's remarkable journey as a woman, a dedicated human rights advocate, and a fearless champion of freedom has earned her this year's prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. This accolade from the Norwegian Nobel Committee is a tribute to her unwavering battle for human rights, liberty, and democracy within the confines of Iran. Moreover, it serves as a powerful acknowledgement of the hundreds of thousands who, in the past year, have risen against the oppressive and discriminatory policies of Iran's theocratic regime, particularly those affecting women.




Both Claudia Goldin and Narges Mohammadi exemplify the vital role women play in advancing social justice, gender equality, and human rights. Their recognition reaffirms the importance of collective efforts to create a more equitable and just world.

Many more women were awarded the Nobel Prize, do you know their stories, research and efforts? Do you feel particularly close to or especially admire one of them? Let us know in the comments!

 

RESOURCES:

- BBC, Nobel economics prize awarded to Claudia Goldin for work on women's pay, October 10th 2023, retrieved from: Nobel economics prize awarded to Claudia Goldin for work on women's pay - BBC News

- The New York Times, Claudia Goldin Wins Nobel in Economics for Studying Women in the WorkForce, By Jeanna Smialek, October 9th, 2023retrieved from: Claudia Goldin Wins Nobel in Economics for Studying Women in the Work Force - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

- The Nobel Prize, Press Release: The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2023, Claudia Goldin, October 9th, retrieved from: The Prize in Economic Sciences 2023 - Press release (nobelprize.org)

- The Nobel Prize, Press Release: The Nobel Peace Prize 2023, Narges Mohammadi, October 9th, retrieved from: The Nobel Peace Prize 2023 - Press release (nobelprize.org)

- Satista, The Nobel Prize Gender Gap, by Felix Richter, October 13th 2020, retrieved from: Chart: The Nobel Prize Gender Gap | Statista

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