I've seen two different takes on gender inequality this week.
First, Pauline Grosjean and Rose Khattar show that sexist cultural norms can be very persistent.
They studied the effects of convicts arriving in Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Because these convicts were mostly men, their arrival led to a big excess of men over women in some areas of the country. In those areas, women were more likely to marry and have children and less likely to work than women in areas with fewer men.
And here's the thing. In those areas today, men are more likely to have sexist attitudes, and women are less likely to work and less likely to occupy good jobs if they do work. In this sense, sexism is path-dependent. It can persist for decades. This fits in with quite a large body of work which shows that history - even quite distant (pdf) history - shapes behaviour today.
This sounds rather depressing, as it suggests that gender inequality is hard to shift.
However, the ONS has published more optimistic research. It shows that during the last 40 years the gender pay gap has narrowed markedly, especially for younger people. For example in 1975 27-year-old women earned 26% less than men whereas today they earn just 1.5% less.
This seems contradictory. On the one hand, we have evidence for the persistence of sexism, but on the other we have evidence that it has almost disappeared within just a single working lifetime. How can we reconcile this?
Part of the answer, of course, is that the labour market is only one aspect of gender relations, and sexism persists in many others.
But perhaps another part of the answer lies in the relative power of technical versus cultural change. What has contributed to the declining gender pay gap has been technical change - a collapse in relative demand for the sort of hard physical manual work at which (some) men had an advantage over (some) women and rising demand for jobs requiring soft skills at which (some) women are better than (some) men.
Maybe, then, technical change has improved the lot of women whilst culture hasn't changed so much; this is consistent with young women doing well in the labour market but still suffering sexism in other realms.
You might think this theory - it's no more than that - is rather Marxian, as it stresses the importance of changes in "the mode of production of material life" whilst underplaying the possibility of achieving advancement by cultural change alone.
It is, but there's another economistic reading here which rightists might subscribe to. It's that the solution to discrimination lies in market forces more than in the forlorn hope of "changing culture."