Claudia Goldin of Harvard - Used under Creative Commons License

Claudia Goldin is very definitely one of the better economists working on matters like the gender pay gap. Not that that’s a high bar to clear, given the number who simply scream discrimination and leave it at that. Goldin’s very much better than just clearing the bar in fact.

However, there’s still something not quite right about her major point here.

If there’s one thing men can do to improve women’s life at work, it would be…

Want what women want. If men wanted to take more responsibility at home (real responsibility), then workplaces would be structured differently, and men and women would be treated and paid more equally in the labor market. It’s that simple.

Well, yes, that’s true. If men and women wanted the same things from the world of work then we almost certainly wouldn’t see a gender pay gap. Simply because the one we have got stems almost entirely from men and women desiring different things from the world of work. So, true, great, fine.

However, do note that this works the other way around. If women wanted what men want then there also wouldn’t be that gender pay gap. For exactly the same reason, we wouldn’t see that self-sorting across the labour market by gender.

Now try saying that the gender pay gap would be solved by women manning up. Yes, well, not going to get far with that one really, are we? Yet it is still the correct answer, just as men coming to desire the same things from work that women do. The gap is caused by different desires, only when they become the same will the gap disappear.

Entirely true that the gender pay gap will disappear if men feminize – but so also would it go if women masculinised. Which is where our problem is, isn’t it? No, we don’t want to try to insist that women should become as brutal and stupid as men (ahem, hyperbole alert) but given that is so why should or would we try to insist upon the reverse?