The Indicator Plays 'Ms. Monopoly' : The Indicator from Planet Money Monopoly recently rolled out a version of its classic board game, meant to highlight female contributions to the economy as well as women's economic issues. Today on the show, we play Ms. Monopoly.

The Indicator Plays 'Ms. Monopoly'

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Monopoly, the classic game. It was originally invented by a woman named Lizzie Magie in the early 1900s. And back then, it was called The Landlord's Game. It was supposed to teach people about the evils of land monopolies. Ironically, though, it ended up becoming a kind of icon of capitalism.


That was not the lesson that I took away from Monopoly.

GARCIA: About the evils of land monopolies - right.

VANEK SMITH: No. That was not my - my takeaway was buy, buy, buy. Build a hotel.

GARCIA: Good strategy.

VANEK SMITH: That's my - and I think for a lot of people, definitely for me, it was, like, my first exposure to economic ideas like investing in money management, property ownership. You know, Monopoly - I have a soft spot for Monopoly.

GARCIA: Yeah, but then we saw this story about a new version of Monopoly that had just come out called Ms. Monopoly. And the whole idea of Ms. Monopoly was that it would address the particular issues that women face in the economy, so things like the gender pay gap, and it would celebrate female entrepreneurs by replacing all of the properties, like Park Place or Baltic Avenue, with products that had been invented by women.

VANEK SMITH: And a lot of these issues are very close to our hearts here at THE INDICATOR, so we ordered a copy of Ms. Monopoly to see what it was all about. So it came in the mail. Here it is.


VANEK SMITH: And there's this kind of cute, hip-looking woman on the box. It says she's Mr. Monopoly's niece.

GARCIA: Had to be related to him.

VANEK SMITH: It also says on the box, without women, we wouldn't have Wi-Fi or chocolate chip cookies. Apparently, women invented both of those things.

GARCIA: So we had to play the game.

VANEK SMITH: We had to play the game.

GARCIA: We had to. So we invited over one of our favorite economists, Martha Gimbel - she's on the show on Jobs Fridays very frequently - to play along with us. This is THE INDICATOR FROM PLANET MONEY. I'm Cardiff Garcia.

VANEK SMITH: And I'm Stacey Vanek Smith. Today on the show, we play Ms. Monopoly with Martha Gimbel. We learn about some economic issues women face, some of the things that women have invented and why I will never look at fire escapes or chocolate chip cookies the same way again.


VANEK SMITH: So first, we have to divide up the money. Apparently, men and women get a little bit different amount of money. Cardiff, sorry.

GARCIA: Hey, I knew what I was signing up for here.

VANEK SMITH: You did know what you were signing up for. You're always very good about that stuff. OK, Martha, you get three $500 bills. I get three $500 bills. Cardiff, you only get two $500 bills.



GARCIA: Thirty-three percent pay gap, right?


MARTHA GIMBEL: But have you controlled for differences in occupation in the industry, Cardiff?

VANEK SMITH: That's a good point.

GARCIA: Should we figure out what the starting gender pay gap is?

VANEK SMITH: Sure. OK, let's figure out what the starting gender pay gap is.

GARCIA: I have $1,500.

VANEK SMITH: We have $1,900.

GARCIA: Hang on. I have a calculator.

VANEK SMITH: I think that's actually pretty close to the actual gender pay gap.

GARCIA: It's like four - 19 - yeah.

GIMBEL: Yeah, that's because the actual gender pay gap is, like, 20ish percent.

VANEK SMITH: Martha, as our guest of honor, please go first.

GIMBEL: Oh, hooray.


GIMBEL: Seven.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, Chance.

GIMBEL: All right, let's see how this goes. Sometimes the only answer to a bad day is a bowl of cookie dough. Advance to Chocolate Chip Cookies.


VANEK SMITH: No. What is happening?

GIMBEL: Oh, I am having so many emotions right now.

VANEK SMITH: So many feelings.

GARCIA: Oh, my God. You just jumped the whole board.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, I think this is like - I think this is like Park Place. Oh, here. I'll have you read it. Here you go.


VANEK SMITH: And you can decide if you want to buy the property.

GIMBEL: Ruth Wakefield in 1930 invented chocolate chip cookies by accident when the chocolate she used in her chocolate cookies didn't melt enough. Today, the global cookie market is a multibillion-dollar industry, and chocolate chip cookies are an icon.

VANEK SMITH: But now we are to our $400 question, which is do you want to buy the Chocolate Chip Cookie property, which appears to be one of the more lucrative ones on the map?

GIMBEL: Well, and given there is data that women don't, quote-unquote, "invest enough in the stock market," which is a whole other topic of discussion...

VANEK SMITH: Oh, right.

GIMBEL: ...I'm going to try to go against that and invest in the chocolate chip cookies.


GARCIA: Is it my turn? All right. Here we go.


GARCIA: Five, so invention - fire escape, Anna Connelly, 1887. Before Anna Connelly's fire escape bridge, people had to parachute or repel from burning buildings. There were parachutes before 1887...

VANEK SMITH: I don't think...

GARCIA: ...That people used to escape burning buildings? I think this is being facetious, people.

VANEK SMITH: I think you're right. Are you going to buy it?

GARCIA: Yeah, I'm going to buy it. I always buy.


VANEK SMITH: OK. I'm going to go.




VANEK SMITH: Modern Shapewear - OK - Sara Blakely, 2000. Sara Blakely's is the ultimate story of entrepreneurship. When she couldn't afford a patent lawyer to protect the slimming, shaping, footless pantyhose she designed, she hit the law books, wrote her own patent and eventually received one. I think she's Spanx. This is Spanx. I will buy this for a hundred bucks.


GIMBEL: So I rolled an eight, but I'm also passing Go.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah, so you get to collect $240. Poor Cardiff only gets to collect 200.

GARCIA: Oh, how exciting. And you landed on another Chance.

GIMBEL: Oh, boy.


GIMBEL: Day care fees - $50.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, my God. What? How do you feel about that?

GIMBEL: You know, I'm torn because on the one hand, child care is an expense that women have to deal with...


GIMBEL: ...And that can keep them out of the workforce.


GIMBEL: On the other hand, that's making a lot of assumptions that all women have to pay child care fees and that child care fees don't impact men.

VANEK SMITH: That's also true.

GIMBEL: It feels like a very one-dimensional attitude towards child care, honestly.

VANEK SMITH: And women, yeah. But anyway, Cardiff, go ahead.

GARCIA: Yes. OK. Here we go. Big money. Oh, 10 - good roll. Go me.


GARCIA: And I'm on Acupressure Tool.

VANEK SMITH: All right. Here you go. This is like in the Baltic Avenue section, right? These are the cheapo properties. I'm not feeling bitter.

GARCIA: Think I'm not taking them - right. OK. Invention - acupressure tool. When she was just 13 years old, Andrea Cao wowed investors with her design for a massage tool that alleviates back pain. Well done, Andrea or Andrea. I will buy for $60 'cause I can afford it.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, my God. Are you dancing in your chair?

GARCIA: Oh, yeah.


VANEK SMITH: And Chance.



GARCIA: What? What's wrong?

VANEK SMITH: You find yourself on an awkward date. Advance to Fire Escape, which is your property.


VANEK SMITH: Oh, my. This is so wrong in so many ways. Why does it have to be Cardiff's property? So OK. Advance to Fire Escape.

GIMBEL: If it's an empowering, like, Ms. Monopoly situation, why isn't it a business meeting you want to get out of?

VANEK SMITH: And why am I sneaking out on the fire escape? Why don't I just say I'd like to go home?



GIMBEL: Proof that even when women start out ahead, we end up behind.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, yeah. I'm falling behind.

GARCIA: Whatever. You owe me 120 bucks. Woohoo.

VANEK SMITH: I don't know why I'm getting so upset.

GIMBEL: This game is just increasing the amount of emotional labor that women have to do.

VANEK SMITH: That's true. Oh, yes, that is true. OK. So...

GARCIA: All right. So that's it.

VANEK SMITH: I'm trying to figure out how we figure out who wins. I think if we just add up the value of our properties.

GARCIA: And the money - is that how it works?


VANEK SMITH: Yeah, let's do that.


VANEK SMITH: Who should go first?

GIMBEL: I think it's going to have to be you, Stacey.

VANEK SMITH: OK. I had $2,220.

GIMBEL: I had 2,860.

GARCIA: I had 2,800.

VANEK SMITH: Martha wins.

GARCIA: Martha wins.

VANEK SMITH: Woo. Yay. OK, so takeaways. I don't know. What do we think of this?

GARCIA: Of the game?


GARCIA: Yeah, I think it sends the wrong message, which is not that, like, we're all in this together and we're trying to, like, fight for equality, but that, like, this is now an antagonistic struggle between men and women.

VANEK SMITH: You would've won the game if you'd gotten the same amount of money when you passed Go.


VANEK SMITH: I mean, how do you feel about your win?

GIMBEL: I feel kind of dirty about it, honestly.

VANEK SMITH: Really? How come?

GIMBEL: Yeah, because it's not - I mean, maybe this is how, like, men should feel in the workplace 'cause, like, I didn't really earn it. And I kind of feel like Cardiff played the game better than I did, but yet, 'cause I started off with all this privilege, I still ended up ahead.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, yeah. Well, I guess that is the gender pay gap, right?

GIMBEL: Yeah, I guess there's something there.

VANEK SMITH: I hate this game.


VANEK SMITH: This episode of THE INDICATOR was produced by Leena Sanzgiri. Our intern is Nadia Lewis. Our editor is Paddy Hirsch. And THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR.


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