Un événement organisé par

Femina Economicus

Société | Solidarités

A world where gender equality prevails could add $28 trillion to global growth, equivalent to the combined economies of the United States and China, according to a 2016 World Bank study.

These figures have further increased by 2024 for a population still considered a minority, despite women making up 50% of the global population and 50% of the workforce.

However, there remains a “void” in the recognition of this work, both legally and economically. This is the subject of studies by Dr. Claudia Goldin, a professor at Harvard University who recently received the Nobel Prize in Economics “for advancing our understanding of women’s situation in the labor market.”

As part of the “Femina Vox” Forum, which I have been directing for several years under the high patronage of UNESCO to celebrate International Women’s Rights Day, I had the chance to collaborate with her on the foundations of her discoveries. It was striking to see the economic invisibility related to the status of married women’s work, which is immediately associated with domestic tasks. Records under the term “wife” do not register these women’s participation in the labor market, for example, in agriculture alongside their husbands or as heads of family businesses in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The married woman also scares off recruiters since she is presumed to be ineffective due to being “overwhelmed” by her spouse or children, starting from the industrial era. Dr. Claudia Goldin calls this the “marriage bar,” a status that confines women to being only maternal social objects without the possibility of recognizing their creation of real economic value.

This concept is found in the Nobel Laureates’ “U-Curve,” which shows women’s constant work fully contributing to society’s economy in connection with the invisibility of their work.

Women’s economic activity does not decrease over the centuries. It is the recognition and official mention of this work that correlates with the degree of “development” of economies. Records show that female employment is high in subsistence economies but declines when economies become monetized, linked to highly manual jobs stigmatized for women before the 20th century. A woman in that era occupying an officially “manual” job would create doubt about her femininity because she would socially appear as not fully dedicating herself to the family home or receptions maintaining her husband’s social status. From the 20th century, female employment rises when it involves “white-collar” jobs, more socially “respectable” for women.

When studying individual behaviors in the pure tradition of economic theory, we realize how much women in the labor market resonate with the sociological context of their time: the economic and industrial mobilization born of World War II, the advent of the contraceptive pill, the arrival of a child, recruitment practices, or career management in companies and organizations.

However, even today, there are glaring differences in outcomes.

Women are twice as likely as men to be in part-time salaried employment. Those with paid employment earn up to a third less than men.

They are more likely to work in low-productivity activities or have “informal” employment.

The need for quotas to balance governance bodies, such as corporate boards of directors, tries to change the situation, notably with the European Union’s “Women on Boards” directive of 2023, but much remains to be done for a fully visible and equal inclusion of female employment.

Let’s hope that firms aiming for parity, like Leyders Associate, will help restore a healthy balance in governance relationships to combat the invisibility of women’s work in today’s society.