I have been looking forward to reading Vicky Pryce’s Women vs Capitalism, having advised women about their finances for 20 years.
In many ways, Ms Pryce confirms what is already established and as women we know only too well: that women have not been served well by the workplace; and that there is a motherhood penalty, which means that having children acts as a drag on our earnings and career prospects.
Three in four working mothers report discrimination in the workplace and 54,000 a year lose their job. Also, most lose out economically through the pay gap.
We also know that women are as talented as men and that if women entrepreneurs were funded and women in business promoted to executive level and board, then the benefits to the economy are huge.
What is different is that Ms Pryce has applied economic theory to the problem and has brought together a lot of data to make her case and argue for an interventionist approach.
Her central proposition is that capitalism by itself has not served women well, that gender inequality is a market failure and, without policy intervention, the market is unlikely to solve the problem on its own.
According to Ms Pryce, this is because although markets can efficiently find value in some things, it is not good at finding value in other things – “women are a valuable resource, whose true value is not understood or reflected in market prices,” she says.
Kudos to her that she also addresses head on some of the pale excuses where critics seek to blame women themselves for the issues – the “queen bee syndrome” for example.
Ms Pryce argues that, like child labour for example, gender equality requires policy intervention.
Industry once argued that child labour was critical for the success of businesses and it required legislation and holding businesses to account to bring about real change.
Similarly, Ms Pryce argues for policy intervention and accountability to bring about gender economic equality.
The solutions explored in Women vs Capitalism – quotas, better parental leave, pay transparency, flexible working and access to finance for women entrepreneurs – are not unique to Ms Pryce.
What is powerful, however, is her central tenet that women’s economic empowerment is critical to market efficiency and that we need government intervention – both things that are well worth understanding and supporting.
Anna Sofat is founder of Addidi Wealth
Published by Hurst