"Potential" and the Gender Promotion Gap | CIRHR Research Seminar with Alan Benson

When and Where

Wednesday, November 02, 2022 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm


Alan Benson, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management


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Meeting ID: 834 8040 6415
Passcode: 961167

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(Co-authored with Danielle Li, MIT, and Kelly Shue, Yale) We show that widely-used subjective assessments of employee ``potential'' contribute to gender gaps in promotion and pay. Using data on 29,809 management-track employees from a large North American retail chain, we find that women receive substantially lower potential ratings despite receiving higher job performance ratings. Differences in potential ratings account for approximately half of the gender promotion gap. Women's lower potential ratings do not appear to be based on accurate forecasts of future performance or attrition: women subsequently outperform male colleagues with the same potential ratings, both on average and on the margin of promotion, and women are less likely to exit the firm. Despite this, women's subsequent potential ratings remain low, suggesting that firms persistently underestimate the potential of their female employees.

Alan Benson is an Associate Professor in the Work and Organizations Group at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. He's also on the graduate faculty of the Department of Applied Economics and the Minnesota Population Center, and an associate editor in the Organizations department of Management Science.  His research is in personnel economics: the economic analysis of human resources, and his studies primarily involve working with companies to analyze their hiring, promotions, and incentives using interviews, applied theory, and econometric methods.