Primary Outcomes (explanation)
To consider the potential role perceived gender identity can play in choices within college majors we designed a ‘Stephen/Stephanie’ experiment, which describes a fictitious student who is finishing high school in the UK. Specifically, the experiment describes a student who has focused their studies on politics, economics, and English literature. They expect to do very well in their high school exams and have decided to pursue a career in law. However, they do not yet know how they should specialise. The student answering has been asked to provide guidance to this fictitious peer. The experiment provides a brief description of what both a civil rights and corporate lawyer does on a day-to-day basis, along with some other information on what the student’s day to day life looks like. We choose to focus on law as it has a couple of appealing characteristics. First, law is one of the major professional occupations that women have entered more regularly. Currently in the UK about 50% of solicitors are female , and more than 60% of students studying law are female. So, the purpose of our experiment is not overtly obvious. Second, within law there are big disparities in income that depend on speciality, with male lawyers being over represented in the highest earning specialties, and in progression to the highest ranks (Beioley 2014). In terms of career advancement in private practice in the UK, 40.2% of male solicitors with Practising Certificates (PCs) holders are partners versus only 29.5% of female, while 75% of men become partners versus 30% of women (Solicitor Regulation Authority (2017)). Similarly, the 2014 Gender in the Law Survey (with breakdown of gender by firm) shows a steady decline of females from trainees (nearly 60% are female) to partners (24% average).
Notably, corporate law has higher earnings as compared to civil law. In addition, corporate law has a larger gender pay gap as compared to civil law, and in neither case are the gender pay gaps explained by the area of law or billable hours (Azmat and Ferrer, 2017). This raises a question of whether women are less accepted in corporate law in terms of ‘face not fitting’, and this contributes to the gender pay gap. Overall, this implies that any differences in peer recommendations cannot be rationally explained away by the children in the study having a true knowledge that women do not choose either law speciality regularly enough. Rather, it points to simpler explanation of gender driving any differences in advice received by the fictitious peer.