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Career Implications of Having a Female-Friendly Supervisor


  • Bednar, Steven

    () (Elon University)

  • Gicheva, Dora

    () (University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics)


Supervisor attributes, such as race or gender, are thought to play an important role in employee hiring, career advancement and turnover even in the absence of discrimination. For example, supervisors may be better able to infer the true ability of a worker if they have a common attribute (Cornell and Welch 1996) or it could be that mentoring is an important determinant of employees' career trajectories and is more effective if the workers and supervisors are of the same type (Athey, Avery and Zemsky 2000). Embedded in this idea are important policy implications for alleviating the gender wage gap and other adverse career outcomes for females. In our paper we introduce a type-based mentoring model of worker productivity and turnover in which human capital production is contingent on the worker's gender and the supervisor's type. We allow for a flexible definition of "type" based on the supervisor's attitude toward working with females. Using a longitudinal data set in which workers with a high level of managerial responsibility are observed at multiple establishments over time, we construct a measure of revealed supervisor female-friendliness above and beyond the institution-specific culture by comparing changes in the gender composition of workers at lower levels of the firm. We adjust the measure to account for its potential endogeneity with respect to the outcomes that we study and use it to test empirically the predictions of a type-based mentoring model against a model of pure taste-based discrimination. We add to the literature by proposing the idea that it may be necessary to be more flexible when defining "type" in the mentoring relationship. We argue that, in addition to demographics, supervisors can be characterized by a more complexly defined inherent attitude toward working with and mentoring females, which can vary within observable supervisor characteristics, and that the existing literature has left unexplored areas by limiting its focus on leaders' observable characteristics. Implementing our definition of female-friendliness empirically requires us to use a novel data set with information on both supervisors and lower-level workers, in which high-level managerial employees are followed across establishments. We link the theoretical idea of type-based mentoring to observed career outcomes and test whether females are more likely to benefit in terms of career progression when matched with a supervisor with a more favorable attitude toward mentoring women. While our study focuses on a very specific labor market setting, described in Section 3, our findings offer strong support for the importance of type-based mentoring in the labor market and in addition should motivate researchers to use broader definitions of "type" that include harder to infer attitudes in addition to directly observable supervisor and worker attributes such as gender.

Suggested Citation

  • Bednar, Steven & Gicheva, Dora, 2016. "Career Implications of Having a Female-Friendly Supervisor," UNCG Economics Working Papers 16-3, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:uncgec:2016_003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stefanie Behncke & Markus Frölich & Michael Lechner, 2010. "A Caseworker Like Me - Does The Similarity Between The Unemployed and Their Caseworkers Increase Job Placements?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(549), pages 1430-1459, December.
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    3. Meer, Jonathan & Rosen, Harvey S., 2009. "The impact of athletic performance on alumni giving: An analysis of microdata," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 287-294, June.
    4. Frederiksen, Anders, 2008. "Gender differences in job separation rates and employment stability: New evidence from employer-employee data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 915-937, October.
    5. Hensvik, Lena, 2011. "Manager impartiality? Worker-firm matching and the gender wage gap," Working Paper Series 2011:22, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    6. Cottini, Elena & Kato, Takao & Westergaard-Nielsen, Niels, 2011. "Adverse workplace conditions, high-involvement work practices and labor turnover: Evidence from Danish linked employer–employee data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 872-880.
    7. Marianne Bertrand & Sandra E Black & Sissel Jensen & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2019. "Breaking the Glass Ceiling? The Effect of Board Quotas on Female Labour Market Outcomes in Norway," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(1), pages 191-239.
    8. Steven Bednar & Dora Gicheva, 2014. "Are Female Supervisors More Female-Friendly?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 370-375, May.
    9. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2005. "Do Faculty Serve as Role Models? The Impact of Instructor Gender on Female Students," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 152-157, May.
    10. Robert Gibbons & Michael Waldman, 1999. "A Theory of Wage and Promotion Dynamics Inside Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1321-1358.
    11. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2008. "Can Principals Identify Effective Teachers? Evidence on Subjective Performance Evaluation in Education," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 101-136.
    12. Manuel F. Bagues & Berta Esteve-Volart, 2010. "Can Gender Parity Break the Glass Ceiling? Evidence from a Repeated Randomized Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(4), pages 1301-1328.
    13. Carroll, Kathleen A. & Humphreys, Brad R., 2000. "Nonprofit decision making and social regulation: the intended and unintended consequences of Title IX," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 359-376, November.
    14. Christiana Hilmer & Michael Hilmer, 2007. "Women Helping Women, Men Helping Women? Same-Gender Mentoring, Initial Job Placements, and Early Career Publishing Success for Economics PhDs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 422-426, May.
    15. Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2009. "A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2).
    16. Fidan Ana Kurtulus & Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, 2011. "Do Women Top Managers Help Women Advance? A Panel Study Using EEO-1 Records," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2011-14, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven Bednar & Dora Gicheva, 2019. "Workplace Support and Diversity in the Market for Public School Teachers," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 14(2), pages 272-297, Spring.

    More about this item


    gender; labor market;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J70 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - General

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