Step By Step

Vinita Gupta
4 min readDec 27, 2023

The logic of choices women make…

In the judiciary, two torch-bearers of women’s equality were Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, who passed away on Dec. 1, 2023, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second.

Linda Hirshman, author of Sisters In Law, wrote, “Justices [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg and O’Connor .. together delivered the Supreme Court decision to ‘admit women in Virginia Military Institute ‘opening doors for women in uniform’. .. The Constitution demanded.. equal protection under the laws for all..” In her book, Hirshman states, “One small victory at a time, one case at a time.. sometimes they lost some of their previous gains. Progress in women’s equality is not a linear movement forward.”

So true!

Before them and since, women fought for equality and a voice.

Claudia Goldin of Harvard University’s 2023 Nobel Prize for Economics, drives the point of women’s equity home, based on market data. Introducing Claudia Goldin during the award ceremony, Kerstin Enflo of Lund University said, “It’s about time!”

The Nobel Academy stated, “Claudia Goldin’s research has given us new and often surprising insights into women’s historical and contemporary roles in the labor market.”

Her evidence-based research documents the historical shift of goods produced at home, to industrialization, and then to the service industry and why women entered or exited from economic activities as a result.

Goldin’s academic work is appealing, and written in everyday language:
“Women are on-call at home, and men on-call at work.”

  • “In that process, the couple’s equity gets thrown under the table,” she said. Men cannot spend much time with family, and college-educated women back off from intense “greedy jobs” (high-paying), when they become caregivers of kids.
  • The inequality cannot be entirely explained due to biases and discrimination — although they factor in. Most wage gaps are due to the choices women make. The choice of profession, the choice of when to marry, the choice of if and when to have kids, and how many hours a week to work. Men do not have to make these choices. They can have kids and careers at the same time.
  • In her 2021 article, Goldin wrote “What Accounts for the Gender Equality Among Pharmacists?” This high-paying profession has become highly egalitarian in terms of pay. Pharmacists’ salaries have gone up substantially, because of the requirement of six years of college education. In addition to filling and dispensing prescriptions, pharmacists are now expected to advise patients on the use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, administer vaccinations, and give general home care advice.
  • Equality in pay for pharmacists, explains Goldin, is due to “the substitution factor,” when other pharmacists fill in for each other during extended hours. The same happens in traditional teaching jobs, which also attract women.

In my case, I wanted to have both a career and kids. I was 38 when my first daughter was born and 42 when I had my second. At the same time, my husband and I had two startups, It was a struggle.

Looking back, I see that I had the privilege of being able to call my own shots. I was also able to set my own priorities each week even though I was on call both at home and at work.

Luckily since our startups were better established — both my husband and I had started taking salaries — we could afford quality childcare. However, we had no savings and could not build reserves for a long time.

Last but not the least was hiring and managing a full staff at home. We needed to keep the household machinery running smoothly so that I could focus on my startup. We hired a property manager who then hired a house cleaner and a gardener. I also decided to get a chef to provide our palates with Indian food, and a high-quality nanny. It was my job to hire, fire, compensate fairly, and retain the people that my family and I depended on. They tolerated my idiosyncrasies, as much as I did theirs. We made compromises.

But then my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. My sisters who lived nearby pitched in. But it was a painful decision to move him to an assisted living facility. In my culture, aging parents who can no longer live independently move in with their children. Every day on my drive back from work, it would pain me if I did not take the Foothill Expressway exit just to spend half an hour cheering Dad up, while my daughters waited eagerly for me to get home.

I remembered my father when Claudia Goldin accepted her award, saying, “Women have to make choices when they are the caregivers of kids and/or of elderly.”

Today “women are at the center of the economy. More than 50% of college students in the US are women, and they also control the fertility rate of a country.”

Prof. Goldin’s work is logical, compelling, and convincing. It will influence our future policies, even if it means two steps forward and one step back.

https://guptavinita.com/

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Vinita Gupta

Tech Entrepreneur, Business Woman, Writer/Journalist, National Bridge Champion