“It’s systemic,” Goldin told me. “We need to go back to the drawing board and think harder. She maintains that without addressing the issue of parenthood, the proposed solutions are “the economic equivalent of throwing a box of bandages at a person with bubonic plague.”
When a child is sick, one of the parents – usually the mother – has to retire from work and rush to the pediatrician. In theory, the father and the mother could exchange these responsibilities, but then neither would make a partner. So in practice, the man is often the designated career maximizer, while the woman sacrifices career advancement for the sake of her family.
“Both are private,” writes Goldin. “Men give up family time; women give up their careers.
It made me think of my own family. My wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and I believe deeply in gender equity – we wrote a book about it – and yet, looking back, I see it was true for us. I was usually the one flying off to cover the punches, leaving Sheryl (who has more degrees than me) to take care of the planning for the children’s birthday party or the bat in the bedroom.
But there is hope, and that brings us to vets.
In the past, veterinarians, like the best lawyers, financiers and management consultants, often worked long hours and irregularly. The dogs have triumphed; the families of veterinarians have suffered. But 77% of new vets are women, and they’ve implemented a system of more family-friendly group and emergency practices: if Rover gets sick at night, you take him to an open emergency clinic. 24 hours a day.
Likewise, the neighborhood pharmacist often worked long hours and offered personal services. But today you call for a prescription and don’t expect to see a specific pharmacist. This allows pharmacists to work much more flexibly, so that a third of pharmacists in their 30s work less than 35 hours per week.
By various measures, pharmacy is now one of the fairest and most family-friendly professions in America. And similar flexible practices are reshaping female-dominated fields of medicine, such as pediatrics and obstetrics.
Could finance or consulting be structured more in this way? If a CEO is willing to turn their sick child over to a pediatrician on call, then why not let an on-call CPA take care of an accounting matter on the weekends?