Using a representative survey of U.S. lawyers, we document a sizeable gender gap in early partnership aspirations, which explains half of the later gender promotion gap. We further document that the correlation between aspirations and effort provides a ‘mechanical’ link between aspirations and promotion. To understand these gaps, we show that aspirations are malleable and can be influenced by professional experiences, such as discrimination. Facing harassment or demeaning comments in the workplace at an early career stage affects later promotion, mediated via a change in aspirations. Our study highlights that measuring aspirations and adapting the corporate culture that shapes them, is a key component for firms to improve workplace environments.
Financial Markets Group Discussion Papers DP 878