Article | Organization Science | July–August 2013

Looking Up and Looking Out: Career Mobility Effects of Demographic Similarity among Professionals

by Kathleen L. McGinn and Katherine L. Milkman

Abstract

We investigate the role of workgroup sex and race composition on the career mobility of professionals in "up-or-out" organizations. We develop a nuanced perspective on the potential career mobility effects of workgroup demography by integrating the social identification processes of cohesion, competition, and comparison. Using five years of personnel data from a large law firm, we examine the influence of demographic match with workgroup superiors and workgroup peers on attorneys' likelihood of turnover and promotion. Survival analyses reveal that higher proportions of same-sex and same-race superiors enhance junior professionals' career mobility. On the flip side, we observe mobility costs accruing to professionals in workgroups with higher proportions of same-sex and same-race peers. Qualitative data offer insights into the social identification processes underlying demographic similarity effects on turnover and promotion in professional service organizations.

Keywords: professional service firms; gender; race and ethnicity; Ethnicity Characteristics; Race Characteristics; Personal Development and Career; Gender Characteristics; Legal Services Industry;

Citation:

McGinn, Kathleen L., and Katherine L. Milkman. "Looking Up and Looking Out: Career Mobility Effects of Demographic Similarity among Professionals." Organization Science 24, no. 4 (July–August 2013): 1041–1060.