“Potential” and the gender promotion gap

We show that widely-used subjective assessments of employee “potential” contribute to gender gaps in promotion and pay. Using data on 30,000 management-track employees from a large retail chain, we find that women receive substantially lower potential ratings despite receiving higher job performance ratings. Differences in potential ratings account for 30-50% of the gender promotion gap. Women’s lower potential ratings do not appear to be based on accurate forecasts of future performance: women outperform male colleagues with the same potential ratings, both on average and on the margin of promotion. Yet, even when women outperform their previously forecasted potential, their subsequent potential ratings remain low, suggesting that firms persistently underestimate the potential of their female employees.

Here is the paper by Benson, Li, and Shue.  Via the excellent Samir Varma.


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