Using a representative survey of U.S. lawyers, the paper presented in this Mannheim Applied Seminar documents a sizeable gender gap in early partnership aspirations. This explains half of the later gender promotion gap. The authors propose a model to understand aspirations and empirically test it. They show that aspirations induce higher effort, and increase regret if promotion is not obtained. Furthermore, aspirations are linked to fertility choices and workplace experiences (mentoring and discrimination). Facing harassment or demeaning comments at an early career stage affects later promotion, mediated via a change in aspirations. The paper highlights that measuring aspirations, and understanding how they are formed, is key to explaining gender career gaps.
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