Claudia Goldin, the first woman to receive tenure in Harvard's economics department, received the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics this week for her work in studying the gender pay gap over the course of her career. According to the Prize announcement Goldin "provided the first comprehensive account of women's earnings and labour market participation through the centuries. Her research reveals the causes of change, as well as the main sources of the remaining gender gap."
Significantly, at this point in history, differences in pay between men and women can no longer be explained by differences in "education and occupational choices" as they once were; now, "Goldin has shown that the bulk of this earnings difference is now between men and women in the same occupation, and that it largely arises with the birth of the first child." She attributes this to a lack of equality between men and women in heterosexual relationships, as women often take on the bulk of childcare responsibilities causing them to devote less time to their careers, particularly in higher paying, more demanding jobs. Goldin calls for the need for equality at home, but also recognizes that a true 50/50 partnership may be sacrificing total earnings as well. According to a CNBC article, she considers the "next frontier" in addressing this issue to include exploring: "Why do women, not men, step back from these higher-paid opportunities? . . . And how can we make these ‘greedy jobs' less demanding, without making them less productive?”
We do have laws intended to ensure that women are paid fairly - equal pay for equal work - including in the sex discrimination context as well as laws specific to equal pay. In New York we also have more pay transparency than on a national level so that women have a better sense of what they are being paid vs. their mail counterparts. That being said, the gender pay gap continues to exist, and is worse for women of color.