The conception of feminist economics arose in response to many feminists in business perceiving that economic theory and policy was limited to that of a “boy’ club”. This club and its rules did not leave room for feminist values and warped the market towards the self-seeking behaviors which many feminists claim inhibit many of the economic benefits of collaboration. While this field of study and expression has been around for decades, not much has changed in the economic reflection, and as of 2014 woman still make up only 12% of American economics professors (S.K. 1). Today feminist economics posit the question that traditional economics ask the wrong questions and promote gender inequality by refusing a flexible perspective which could foster changes towards abundance.
The current globalized market has required many new and flexible approaches to policy, but economic policy has been reluctant to change. Founding father of economic theory, Alfred Marshall, calls economics the study of men as they work, think, and live (S.K. 1). Feminists point out that the casual use of men ignores the values and contributions of women. Today’s culture sees more women in the workplace than ever before, and this reality requires a transition of economic theory if it is to remain valid. However, the feminist discussion of economic policy change may also need a revision.
Past attempts to change policy and perspective have been largely unsuccessful, and this calls for a reevaluation of tactics. In 1988 feminist economist, Marilyn Waring, published If Women Counted, and claimed that how the GDP measured was designed by men to keep women “in their place” (S.K. 1). This structure “is often thought of as the world of money, machines and men. This is reflected in how GDP is measured. Wage labour is included; unpaid work at home is not. Feminist economists criticize this approach as being excessively narrow” (S.K. 1). Whether or not this rationale is true, as an effective means of debate it is ineffective. Women have drastically changed their presence and power in the workforce, and the discussion style should reflect this.
The foundational logic of feminist economics is sound and is reflected in the World Health Organization’s Millennium Development Goals which seek to create maternal support for improved communal longevity. This is in alignment with “When it comes to public policy, feminist economists think gender equality is valuable in and of itself, not just as a means of promoting growth. They also consider the effects of public policy on women” (S.K. 1). This perspective is not feminist in of itself, but simply rational, and feminists may go further in their influence if they approached it from a rational base.
Feminist economic spokeswomen desire to influence economic policy in dynamic ways which reflect a more holistic perception of the global human community. To this end, “feminist economics also criticizes the methods used within the standard models taught to undergraduates for overlooking fundamental drivers of gender inequality” (S.K. 1). The logic of this approach has led to many successes for feminist theorists. As the World Health Organization Millennium goals reveal, and the United Nations efforts towards included wellbeing in their economic models.
The UN’s nation-states have actively put feminist policies into practice as they seek to avert economic policies which increase gender inequality because of their desire to increase self-sufficiency and peace throughout the region (Berik, Rodgers, and Seguino 2). Economic policies of the past which ignored this were focused more on competition, a warfare economic model, than mutual support engendering sustainable goals. Due to the success of this model, researchers now “argue that macroeconomic theory and policy should be constructed within the broader framework of human well-being, rather than being solely concerned with how economies function and the achievement of macroeconomic fundamentals such as price stability and robust growth rates” (Berik, Rodgers, and Seguino 2). This is a big win for the feminist economists who were working towards this adaption for some time.
Fundamentally a feminist economic perspective is keeping profits within the sustainable context of families’ quality of life. Profits in of themselves are not the end goal in their context. Feminists point out that at the very least human wellbeing economic theory needs, “(through interconnected paid labor and unpaid care activities); capabilities (the ability to do or be, based on provisioning); and agency (the ability to participate in decision making so as to shape the world we live in)” (Berik, Rodgers, and Seguino 2). In this context quality of life will lead to enhanced profits as people are less prone to sickness and war due to having their basic needs met (S.K. 1).
While this approach may not be favorable to the “good ole boys” of Wall Street who pay no regard for how damaging their financial shenanigans are on the world market, it ensures consistent gain rather than bubble gains. Feminist theorists emphasize that when people have their basic needs met and are valued for their non-monetary contribution they will be inclined to support the market in creative and sustainable ways (S.K. 1).
Berik, Günseli, Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, and Stephanie Seguino. "Feminist economics of inequality, development, and growth." Feminist Economics 15.3 (2009): 1-33. Web. Retrieved from: https://www.uvm.edu/giee/pubpdfs/Berik_2009_Feminist_Economics.pdf
S.K. “The Thinking Behind Feminist Economics.” Economist.com, 20 Oct. 2015. Web. Retrieved from: https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/10/economist-explains-17