by Sari Kerr, Ph.D.
The Wall Street Journal
May 6, 2012
Sari Kerr, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women, wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal on May 6, 2012 in response to an article published on April 26, 2012: “Why Women Make Less Than Men,” by Kay Hymowitz. Read Kerr’s letter here. Read Hymowitz’s article here.
Ms. Hymowitz concludes that no family policies exist that have created gender equality at the workplace. As evidence, she cites gender income gap figures from Sweden and Iceland. The article, however, confuses multiple related issues in its arguments: labor force participation, part-time work, occupational segregation and gender wage gap. While gender wage gaps tend to exist everywhere in large part due to occupational gender segregation, Scandinavian countries boast exceptionally high female labor-force participation rates due to their family-friendly work environments. This is important both for the entire economy (human capital) as well as individual workers and families (higher incomes). Indeed, the key to increasing women's work hours is in improving their opportunity to retain their former job at all and to afford child care while working. And this is an area in which the U.S. has a lot to learn from Sweden and other Nordic countries.