Wage inequalities between men and women are rife in several countries around the world and can manifest themselves differently. In the United States, a phenomenon contributes a little further to widening this gap: “greedy work”, a term conceptualized by the American Claudia Goldin, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2023.
If you are a woman, perhaps you have already experienced this situation. You’re at the office, it’s the end of the day, you have an urgent file to submit and your boss is planning a meeting at the last minute. The problem is that you have your child to pick up from daycare and need to go and do some basic shopping before the stores close. Why is the father (from whom you are not separated) not devoting himself? Because he himself is still at work at this time. Given that he has managed a large team for years, you have become accustomed to this that he doesn’t come home until 8 p.m. You, on the other hand, have just received a promotion and must therefore face new professional responsibilities, while juggling your personal obligations.
Far from being rare, this phenomenon has even been theorized by the American economist Claudia Goldin, the first woman to head the department at the prestigious Harvard University and Nobel Prize winner in economics in 2023. She calls it “greedy work “. Or, in French, “greedy work”. In her book “Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity” published in 2021, the renowned economist uses this term to designate, in the United States, the tendency of companies to pay their employees very well: in exchange, they expect an almost permanent level of availability, which leaves little room for flexibility. But women, who still most often bear the mental burden (domestic, parental or caregiver), therefore have less access to this type of position, and are therefore less well paid.
“With the rise of career and family aspirations, a significant part of most careers has become apparent, visible and central. For many people mid-career, work is consuming. The person who works overtime, who works weekends or evenings will earn much more“, explains Claudia Goldin. One more aspect which increases economic and salary inequalities between men and women. And they are unfortunately not confined to the United States: in France, in the private sector, the salary income of women “ is lower on average by 24.4% than that of men”, according to INSEE statistics dating from 2021.
A more equitable sharing of time and tasks within heterosexual couples
When children arrive in the family, one of the two parents must make themselves available, ready to leave the office or workplace at any time. Most often, at least within heterosexual couples, the mother therefore. “The potential impact on promotion, advancement and income is evident“, supports the Nobel-winning economist. Before adding: “If we want to eradicate or even reduce the gender pay gap, we must first delve deeper into the root of these failures“.
One of the solutions would be to deploy company policies encouraging a better professional and personal balance (for example by banning meetings scheduled at the end of the day), as well as to achieve a more equitable sharing of time, tasks and parental work within the couple. Claudia Goldin also insists on not stopping at the “rare examples” of economic leaders who take paternity leave or women who join the board of directors. A strategy which, according to the economist, “is as effective as throwing a box of band-aids at someone with bubonic plague“.