Bringing up the pay differences between men and women never fails to ignite healthy debate.
First, we have to look at the reasons behind the disparity: Is it because women are less likely to ask for a raise—and when they do, their bosses view it differently than when a man raises the question? Is it because male executives are reluctant to mentor younger women? Is it that men simply put in more hours than women?
If it isn’t obvious, definitive conclusions about the causes of the wage gap—which has barely budged in the last 10 years—have yet to be made.
On the solution front, however, a study by Harvard professor and president of the American Economic Association Claudia Goldin found that the pay gap is more dramatic in industries with less flexible work hours, such as finance and law, than in those with more flexible work hours, such as technology and health.
In fact, she posits, if companies were to amend their policies to enable more flex time, the gender pay gap would lessen considerably.
It makes sense, when you think about it. While we’d like to think that moms and dads are just as likely to pick up the kids from the school nurse’s office, or tag-team with a last-minute babysitter on a snow day, the reality is that moms are disproportionately responsible for navigating the unpredictable situation that is child care. (And we won’t even touch on maternity leave.)
And unpredictability isn’t rewarded in the working world. Currently, Goldin says, many fields apply value to hours worked based on when they are worked, and whether those hours are continuous. If industries became more flexible and shifted their mindset about how they value their workers’ time, it could help close the pay gap … and benefit men and women alike.