Adina Sterling

Associate Professor of Sociology (by courtesy), School of Humanities and Sciences
José E. Feliciano & Kwanza Jones SUPERCHARGED Initiative Faculty Scholar for 2019-2020
Academic Area: 
Organizational Behavior

Research Statement

I investigate how social networks affect processes and outcomes in markets, with special attention to labor markets. To this end, I treat social networks as 1) tools that can be used by organizations, managers and job-seekers to contend with uncertainty, and 2) objects of study regarding how they develop in the workplace due to the external (labor) markets in which organizations are situated. Second, I study organizational practices related to social networks (e.g. network-based hiring) and “alternatives-to-networks” practices (e.g. tryouts), and the near and more distant consequences of these practices on employees and organizations. Within this second research stream, a primary line of inquiry is the effects of these practices on the social and economic outcomes of members of different socio-demographic groups.

Research Interests

  • Economic Sociology
  • Labor Markets
  • Strategic HR
  • Networks and Careers
  • Inequality


Professor Adina D. Sterling graduated with honors from Ohio State University with a BS in chemical engineering in 2002 and graduated with her PhD from Emory in Organization and Management in 2011. She is an economic sociologist who specializes in studying the way firms and labor and product markets interact and the implications of these interactions on the prices firms get for their products, who gets hired and what they get paid, as well as the affects this has on social stratification. For instance, her work has investigated a) how initial networks evolve in organizations b) how hiring practices affect selection and wage decisions and c) how networks and prior employment affect the success of entrepreneurs.

Professor Sterling currently has projects investigating how traditional methods of hiring compare to trial employment, or when firms get the opportunity to observe individuals first-hand in organizations, such as internships prior to making hiring decisions. Her work has appeared in journals such as Management Science, Organization Science, Industrial Labor Relations Review, and the Annals of the Academy of Management. Prior to academia, Professor Sterling worked at Procter and Gamble as a senior engineer on brands such as Pampers and Oil of Olay.


Academic Degrees

  • PhD, Organization and Management, Emory University, 2011
  • BS, Chemical Engineering, The Ohio State University, 2002

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford GSB, 2019 - present
  • Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford GSB, 2015 - 2019
  • Assistant Professor of Sociology (by courtesy), School of Humanities and Sciences, 2019
  • Assistant Professor of Strategy, Washington University, Olin Business School, 2011 - 2015

Professional Experience

  • Senior Engineer, Research and Development, Global Baby Care and Beauty Care, Procter and Gamble, 2002 - 2006

Awards and Honors

  • José E. Feliciano & Kwanza Jones SUPERCHARGED Initiative Faculty Scholar, 2019 - 2020
  • Shanahan Family Faculty Scholar, 2017 - 2018
  • PhD Faculty Stanford GSB Distinguished Service Award, 2017
  • Clayman BBS Faculty Fellows Program, 2016 - 2017
  • CRES Research Grant, Washington University, 2014


Journal Articles

Roman Galperin, Oliver Hahl, Adina Sterling, Jerry Guo. Administrative Science Quarterly. March 28, 2019.
Daniel W. Elfenbein, Adina Sterling. Strategy Science. December 2018, Vol. 3, Issue 4, Pages 555-682.
Adina Sterling, Roberto M. Fernandez. Management Science. November 2018, Vol. 64, Issue 11, Pages 4967-5460.
Jennifer Merluzzi, Adina Sterling. ILR Review. January 2017, Vol. 70, Issue 1, Pages 105-131.
Adina Sterling. Organization Science. June 2015, Vol. 26, Issue 3, Pages 650–667.
Adina Sterling. Management Science. 2014, Vol. 60, Issue 9, Pages 2341-2354.
Matthew Bidwell, Forrest Briscoe, Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, Adina Sterling. Academy of Management Annals. June 2013, Vol. 7, Issue 1, Pages 61-121.
Peter Roberts, Adina Sterling. Management Science. February 10, 2012, Vol. 58, Issue 7, Pages 1292-1304.

Book Chapters

Christopher I. Rider, Adina Sterling, David Tan. Diversity in Practice: Race, Class, and Gender in Legal and Professional Careers. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, April 2016, Pages 357-382.

Other Publications

Adina Sterling. State of the Union Report, Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality. April 2018.
Adina Sterling. Harvard Business Review. February 1, 2016.


Degree Courses


This course equips you to create, build and lead equitable organizations. We will learn the power of iD&I - that is, how we can be change agents by involving key stakeholders, casting the right vision, and constructing the right interactions...


This course examines fundamental issues of general management and leadership within an organization. You will learn about setting an organization's strategic direction, aligning structure to implement strategy, and leading individuals within the...

This PhD course provides an overview of economic sociology as it pertains to the behavior of individuals as atomistic agents and collective actors, in the context of markets and organizations. Students will study foundational texts as well as...

This course equips you to create and build equitable organizations. We will discuss the power of inclusion as it relates to the employee and customer experience. We will study effective strategies for building diverse and inclusive companies,...

Executive Education & Other Non-Degree Programs

Stanford Case Studies

In the Media

Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2019
Stanford University | Clayman Institute, July 4, 2019
Stanford University | Clayman Institute, June 10, 2019
INSEAD Knowledge, March 29, 2019
Insights by Stanford Business, February 8, 2019
Market Business News, January 9, 2019
Insights by Stanford Business, November 6, 2017
MIT Sloan School of Management, August 8, 2017
Insights by Stanford Business, April 11, 2017
Strategy+Business, March 21, 2016
Strategy+Business, March 21, 2016
Top of Mind with Julie Rose, October 12, 2015
Olin Business, October 1, 2014

Insights by Stanford Business

February 8, 2019
A Stanford GSB scholar shares why algorithms aren’t sophisticated enough to make these strategic decisions ... yet.
November 6, 2017
A careful study of internships suggests what can be done about the wage disparity among managers.
August 21, 2017
Stanford GSB professors suggest a reading list of articles and books related to the concept.
April 11, 2017
New research looks at how referrals impact promotions of minorities and women.
September 15, 2016
A new study finds that the trend toward external hiring may be partly to blame.
September 8, 2015
First impressions follow new hires into their tenure at a job.

School News

October 4, 2017
The first Women’s Circles Leadership Summit celebrates and educates alumnae who share their personal and professional experiences across generations.
May 11, 2017
In three separate ceremonies this spring, students in the MBA, MSx, and PhD programs lauded Professors Charles Lee, Mary Barth, and Adina Sterling, respectively.
October 6, 2015
New faculty and lecturers offer unique perspectives and experience to augment program offerings.