Why Nobel Prize in economics could have big impact on wage gap for women

Kaplowitz, head of Rutgers Center for Women in Business, says Goldin’s research will help provide roadmap toward more equitable future

As a professor who teaches finance and economics and a former investment banker and chief financial officer at some of the top firms in the world, you can be sure that Lisa Kaplowitz cheered the announcement that Claudia Goldin was the third woman to earn the Nobel Prize in economics — the first to do so as a solo winner.

And, as the co-founder and executive director of the Rutgers Center for Women in Business, you can be sure Kaplowitz is pleased that Goldin’s pioneering research on identifying drivers of gender differences in the labor market will be bring more attention to the issue.

Lisa Kaplowitz. (File photo)

Kaplowitz’s biggest hope, however, is that the next generation won’t need such distinctions — or the research.

“I’m really looking forward to a time when her research is realized and we’re not talking about the fact that so-and-so is the first, because that means we have created pay equity, we have created equal representation and the biases have been removed from the system,” Kaplowitz said.

The Nobel Foundation said it honored Goldin for advancing the understanding of women’s labor outcomes. Her research showed that women still earn, on average, 13% less than men, despite seeing their participation in the job market triple in the last 100 years.

More than that, the foundation said her efforts to find data from periods where it was limited showed that gains women have made in the workplace have not been linear. Instead, there have been sharp periods of change, the last of which occurred in the 1980s.

Her landmark book “Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women” showed how economic changes and evolving social norms have all impacted women in the workplace.

Kaplowitz said she appreciated the fact that Goldin’s research looked ahead while analyzing the past.

“Her research talks about the inherent fixes that we need to implement and create within our institutional structures,” she said.

It’s the type of research that Kaplowitz and the Rutgers Center for Women in Business are doing every semester.

Kaplowitz talked of a project the center did on women in asset management, where it found that, if a woman knew a high-profile female investor, had friends or family in the industry or had a female professor, she was almost twice as likely to think of investment management as a job, understand what that job was and be confident that she’d be able to get the job.

“That’s some of the stuff that we’re working on at the center,” she said. “We know that role models are important. If you can see it, you can be it. That exposure is so critical. And we also know that data is critical to understanding and solving this wage gap.”

The center will be doing more such research moving forward. It recently hired its first full-time academic scholar: Colleen Tolan, who recently was awarded a doctoral degree in conflict communication from Temple University.

“We are really trying to change the face and future of women’s leadership,” Kaplowitz said. “And we’re doing (that) by removing barriers, building community and empowering women.

“We hired our first full-time academic scholar to really expand our breadth and depth of research. We’re working on some really interesting projects right now, trying to fix those systematic barriers that are holding women back.”

And, while Kaplowitz dreams of the day when pay equity no longer is an issue, she relishes what it means that the subject is in the spotlight, thanks to the Nobel Prize being awarded to Goldin.

“We really stand on the shoulders of these giant scholars,” she said. “They are laying a path for us.

“My hope is that the acknowledgement of the value of her research, through the Nobel Prize Award, validates the importance of the work in the field of economics, and it gets more focus, both at the early secondary school level, but more importantly, at the collegiate level, so more work is done.

“That will help us close that gap and equity.”