DP14311 Gender Promotion Gaps: Career Aspirations and Workplace Discrimination

Author(s): Ghazala Y. Azmat, Vicente Cuñat, Emeric Henry
Publication Date: January 2020
Keyword(s): career aspirations, gender gaps, Promotion
JEL(s): J16, J44, K40, M51
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Public Economics, Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14311

Using a nationally representative longitudinal survey of lawyers in the U.S., we document a sizeable gap between men and women in their early aspirations to become law firm partners, despite similar early investments and educational characteristics. This aspiration gap can explain a large part of the gender promotion gap that is observed later. We propose a model to understand the role of aspirations and then empirically test its predictions. We show that aspirations create incentives to exert effort and are correlated with expectations of success and the preference for becoming a partner. We further show that aspirations are affected by early work experiences - facing harassment or demeaning comments early in the career affects long-term promotion outcomes mediated via aspirations. Our research highlights the importance of accounting for, and managing, career aspirations as an early intervention to close gender career gaps.