Feminist economics is one of the most exciting branches of economics in the modern day era. Regardless of the vast definitions and general feel about the field of study, its propositions are not without merit. The Women’s Budget Group define feminist economics as a study of what is required to create an equal society. Whilst mainstream economics and policy is focused on manufacturing and production, which is more in favour of the man feminist economics seeks to debunk this narrow process of thinking and to lobby for gender to be an integral portion in policy making.
Historically, economic prospects and means of production were directly proportional to strength mass and speed. As a result, men were inadvertently advantaged as they bore a larger mass as compared to women. However, the world has progressed and individuals are remunerated based on their applied knowledge as opposed to the attributes mentioned above. Though, this statement does not seek to depict naivety as there are still jobs in the current era where the physical mass of men places them at an advantage.
Leading Economics Newspaper The Economist in a paper titled The thinking behind feminist economics, has argued that there are a number of areas that need more women representation. This includes but is not limited to academia, science and technology, business and entrepreneurship. According to Wikipedia, over the last 20 years there has been only 2 female Nobel Memorial Prize Laureates in Economics out of 40 candidates. To add on, in the field of Physics, over the last 10 years there has been only 1 female Nobel Laureate out of 30 candidates. According to data and research hub Statista, in the distribution of billionaires in the year 2018, it was found that women made up 305 of the 2600 billionaires.
One of the major research areas of Feminist economics is the gender pay gap. Whilst the gender pay gap has not been abolished, there has been some progress over the years. According to online publication The Guardian, authorities in the UK have passed a bill that forces businesses with 250 employees or more to disclose the gender pay gap in their respective companies. Though only 20% of the companies disclosed, 50% of these companies have reduced the gender pay gap by more than 50%.
In the context of South Africa, the Business Day in an article titled SA’s gender pay gap shrinks dramatically, concluded that since 2014, the gender pay gap among blue collar workers has decreased from 60% to 7%. Even though this is a substantial decrease, UCT Economist Jaqueline Mosomi has argued that the gender pay gap in high paying jobs remains relatively high.
The major reason for the substantial decrease in the gender pay gap is due to the promulgation of the national minimum wage, access to education for women and the general drop in fertility rates. Interestingly, fertility rates in developing countries are comparably lower than those in developed countries as women in developed countries benefit from a greater GDP per capita and access to opportunities.
Detractors of feminist economics have argued that the gender pay gap is in its current state as women have the responsibility to give birth and that they are employed in industries that pay less wages to women. Whilst it is true that women give birth and take time off work, is it really a strong enough argument to pay less wages on the basis of their anatomy? To add on, the notion of women working in industries that pay less is also a myth as it was found that in the UK, women who worked in the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) earned comparatively lower salaries as compared to their male counterparts.
Substantial progress has been made in most parts of the world in addressing gender equality. From the lobby groups to the United Nations, it is an integral part of their Sustainable Development Goals. However, the progress is slow and a lot more countries need to take strides in promoting policy that is geared towards women empowerment. Feminist economics is one such tool that can be used to fast track the inclusion of women in the economy.
Long live the Feminist…
Thoughts from a True Feminist
Economics as we know it does not take into account the contributions that women make outside the work force. If we are going to measure the contributions of women only based in the work place, then this would be a gross misrepresentation of the impact that women have on women as a whole. The economy does not thrive outside of the contributions made outside of the home, from bearing of children to taking care of the family. These factors contribute towards making the economy what it is. In my opinion, everyone plays an integral role in the economy, whether they make a financial contribution or not, and Feminist Economics gives a holistic view on all drivers of the economy.