Mentoring and Diversity

Mentoring and Diversity

By
Susan Athey, Chris Avery, Peter Zemsky
American Economic Review. September
2000, Vol. 90, Issue 4, Pages 765-786

We study how diversity evolves at a firm with entry-level and upper-level employees who vary in ability and "type" (gender or ethnicity). The ability of entry-level employees is increased by mentoring. An employ receives more mentoring when more upper-level employees have the same type. Optimal promotions are biased by type, and this bias may favor either the minority or the majority. We characterize possible steady states, including a "glass ceiling," where the upper level remains less diverse than the entry level. A firm may have multiple steady states, whereby temporary affirmative-action policies have a long-run impact.