Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Gender Gap for Securities and Exchange Commission Attorneys

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Most research on the gender gap in the legal profession focuses on the private sector. We look at the gender gap in a setting where one might expect the gaps to be smaller: the Division of Enforcement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has a reputation for providing employees with good childcare and work flexibility. We find a substantial gender gap in assignments but only a modest one in pay. Men are also more likely to move laterally and more likely to move to lucrative private-sector jobs. What causes these gaps? The primary explanation for the gender gap from the extant literature is the gender differential in childcare. We do not find substantial evidence that having children affects pay and assignments at the SEC. The presence of children, however, does seem to affect the behavior of men and women differently in deciding when to leave the SEC.

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