Date

2017

Abstract

Women have unique, valuable information and insights that lead to their having different priorities and making different decisions than their male counterparts. Despite the fact that women have overtaken men in college attendance, there is a gender disparity in high powered positions that can be seen in many professions. Male and female lawyers, though exhibiting similar levels of competency, are promoted at different rates, exemplifying a trend throughout the world that is also closely related to the gender wage gap. The gender promotion gap is a topic that has been widely theorized upon, though never fully and satisfactorily explained. This paper assesses a wide array of proposed theories on the gender disparity in promotion using a single empirical dataset. I find that there is a 13 percentage point difference in promotion between men and women. Women may be subject to implicit, self-confirming bias that ends in an equilibrium where women, despite being of equal skill level, are promoted less frequently than their male counterparts due to task assignment early in their career. Male composition of firm does not affect task assignment, which contradicts theories on women’s decision making. Controlling for task assignment does not reduce this gap as would be expected from prior literature. Ultimately, I find that the gap is reduced to 6 percentage points when controlling for billable hours, which are negatively affected by having children and spending time doing household chores. However, the persisting 6 percentage point gap remains unexplained.

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