Women and Public Policy Program Seminar Series

Laboratory Evidence of the Effects of Sponsorship on the Competitive Preferences of Men and Women with Katie Coffman

March 9, 2016

How can women get ahead in competitive fields? One proposed way is through sponsorship programs – where a person (the sponsor) advocates for a protégé, and in doing so, takes a stake in her success. While these types of programs have received popular attention, little empirical evidence exists on their effectiveness. Coffman uses a laboratory experiment to explore two channels through which sponsorship has been posited to increase advancement in a competitive workplace. In the experimental setting, being sponsored provides a credible signal of one’s ability and/or creates a link between the protégé’s and sponsor’s payoffs. She finds that both features of sponsorship significantly increase willingness to compete among men on average, while neither of these channels significantly increases willingness to compete among women on average. Similarly, sponsorship has a directionally more positive effect on the earnings of male protégés than female protégés. Therefore, sponsorship does not close the gender gap in competitiveness or earnings. This seminar will explore how these insights from the laboratory could help to inform the design of sponsorship programs in the field. Speaker: 

Katie Coffman, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Ohio State University

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