Abstract: In this paper, I examine the responses of lawyers’ promotions, performance, and turnover to changes in the gender mix of their bosses and peers. Merging unique data on lawyers’ careers from nearly 400 Shanghai law firms with rich information from 134,000 court judgements, I create novel indicators to measure lawyers’ performance in civil litigation. Specifically, based on Chinese civil practice I use the amount of court fees to measure the size of a case, and the assigned division of court fees between the litigants to measure the judgement outcome. I find that female law associates’ promotion rates increase relative to their male counterparts when they have more female bosses (the partners in their firm). Further, the primary mechanism for this effect is that female bosses assign higher-value cases to their female subordinates, at no cost in terms of performance, and with no apparent reductions in men’s advancement. In contrast to female bosses, however, having more female peers reduces women’s promotion rates, suggesting that there may be gender-specific intergroup competition in these firms.

Forthcoming, Journal of Labor Economics, (with Peter Kuhn)

Kinks as Goals: Accelerating Commissions and the Performance of Sales Teams

Media Coverage: Human Resource Executive

Abstract: We estimate turnover costs in small retail sales teams using daily sales data and an advance notice requirement to address endogeneity concerns. In addition to short-staffing and on-boarding costs, we identify two less familiar sources of turnover costs: incumbent workers’ recruitment activities, and reductions in team morale after a departure is announced. Our estimates of total turnover costs are relatively modest, however: Ten percent higher turnover is about as costly as a 0.6% wage increase. We attribute these low costs to a set of complementary personnel policies which ensure that only 25 percent of departures result in a short-staffing spell.

Female Bosses and Female Employees' Careers: Evidence from Lawyers in Shanghai

(with Peter Kuhn)

Abstract: We study the performance of small retail sales teams facing an incentive scheme that includes a both lump sum bonus and multiple accelerators (kinks where the piece rate jumps upward). Consistent with standard labor supply models, we find that sales are highly bunched at the bonus; inconsistent with those models we find that workers bunch at the kinks instead of avoiding them. We also find that the presence of an attainable kink on a particular work-day shifts the distribution of output to the right. Additional evidence from company documents and worker interviews, combined with a theoretical analysis, suggests symbolic rewards as the most likely explanation for these effects: Management uses the kinks to communicate expected performance levels to heterogeneous teams in the presence of high location-based and seasonal variation in workload, and workers treat the kink points as symbolic rewards. Together, these findings demonstrate the value to employers of accelerators: a widely used but under-researched component of commission pay.