Barbara S. Lawrence

Barbara S. Lawrence

Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Research Professor
“I study organizations to make them better places to work.”
Areas of Expertise:
  • Careers
  • Critical Thinking
  • Organizational Demography
  • Organizational Reference Groups
  • Social Networks
  • Social Norms




Barbara Lawrence joined the UCLA Anderson faculty in 1983. The second woman promoted to full professor at Anderson, Lawrence studies organizational reference groups, the evolution of organizational norms, internal labor markets and their influence on employees’ career expectations and implicit work contracts, and the effect of population age change on occupations.

A career-switcher herself, Lawrence has taught MBAs at the crossroads of their professional advancement. Indeed, her field didn’t exist as such when she was starting out, but jobs she held in her student days and early career gave her fly-on-the-wall opportunities to study human behavior and organizational dynamics. She began to observe how, when and where decisions were being made. She was inspired to ask, How do you put together an organization that helps people do their best?

Her earliest research concerned the “myth of the midlife crisis” and led her to study what happened to people at different ages over the course of their working lives. What is acceptable to do at certain ages? she wondered, and found, in part, that “employees’ shared beliefs about age norms and distributions inform how they value each other, and themselves. Norms evolve and define who is ahead of schedule, who is on schedule and who is behind. It’s an HR problem we typically think of as being the result of age. I found that people were quite different from each other at the same age. The norms where they worked were different.”

Looking at individuals in social contexts is crucial in creating diverse and equitable workplaces. “People don’t generally recognize that, even when they work in the same organization, individuals’ broad reference groups differ,” says Lawrence. “Scholars tend only to infer, not identify, the people an individual is aware of at work. This surmise creates no problem in groups or small organizations where everyone knows everyone else. However, it becomes troublesome in large organizations where the set of people one individual discerns may vary considerably from that of another.”

Lawrence’s latest research asserts that, although our tendency to associate with similar others may fundamentally underlie human relationships, the academic literature on this subject, which is called “homophily,” neglects the meaning people attribute to and derive from those positive ties. Lawrence finds that researchers often use measures in current studies that imply but do not capture how individuals interpret and attach importance to their associations or similarities. “Kurt Lewin’s famous remark that there is nothing so practical as a good theory is really recognition that good explanations work precisely because of their close connection to empirical observation,” she says.

Lawrence’s research has been published widely in peer-reviewed journals and funded by the National Institutes of Health. A former concert flutist, she believes she may be the only business school professor who has taught the history of jazz.



Ph.D. Management, 1983, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management

M.A. College Student Personnel, 1973, University of Maryland

B.M. Performance, 1972, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music

Published Papers

Published Papers

Lawrence, Barbara S., and Neha Parikh Shah. 2017. Homophily: Measures and Meaning. Submitted to Sociological Methods and Review.

Kannan-Narasimhan, Rangapriya, and Barbara S. Lawrence. 2017. How Innovators Reframe Resources in the Strategy-Making Process to Gain Innovation Adoption. Strategic Management Journal, Accepted for Publication.

Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Joel, and Stakeholder Alignment Collaborative. 2017, March 30. Five Ways Consortia Can Catalyse Open Science. Nature, 543(7647), 615-617. doi:10.1038/543615a. (Co-authors, listed alphabetically: Karen S. Baker, Nicholas Berente, Courtney Flint, Gabriel Gershenfeld, Brandon Grant, Michael Haberman, John Leslie King, Christine Kirkpatrick, Barbara Lawrence, Spenser Lewis, W. Christopher Lenhardt, Matthew Mayernik, Charles McElroy, Barbara Mittleman, Namchul Shin, Shelley Stall, Susan Winter & Ilya Zaslavsky.)

Lawrence S. Barbara, Shah Parikh Neha (2017). Homophily.

Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Joel, and Stakeholder Alignment Collaborative. 2016. Build It, But Will They Come? A Geoscience Cyberinfrastructure Baseline Analysis, Data Science Journal. X:X, 1-14, DOhttp// (Co-authors, listed alphabetically: Karen Baker, Nick Berente, Dorothy Carter, Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Leslie DeChurch, Courtney Flint, Gabriel Gershenfeld, Michael Haberman, Christine Kirkpatrick, John L. King, Eric Knight, Barbara Lawrence, Spenser Lewis, Chris Lenhardt, Pablo Lopez, Matt Mayernik, Charles McElroy, Barbara Mittleman, Victor Nichol, Mark Nolan, Namchul Shin, Cheryl Thompson, Susan Winter, Ilya Zaslavsky.)

Lawrence, Barbara S., Hall, Douglas T., and Michael B. Arthur. 2015. Sustainable Careers Then and Now. In De Vos, Ans and Beatrice Van der Hejiden (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton MA, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 432-449.

Lawrence, Barbara S., and Najung Kim. 2014. Age. Wiley Encyclopedia of Management, 3rd Edition.

Bolukbasi,Nicholas Berente,Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Leslie Dechurch,Courtney Flint, Michael Haberman,John Leslie King, Eric Knight,Barbara Lawrence, Ethan Masella, Charles Mcelroy, Barbara Mittleman, Mark Nolan, Melanie Radik, Namchul Shin, Cheryl A. Thompson, Susan Winter, Ilya Zaslavsky, M. Lee Allison, David Arctur, Jennifer Arrigo, Anthony K. Aufdenkampe, Jay Bass, Jim Crowell, Mike Daniels, Stephen Diggs, Christopher Duffy, Yolanda Gil, Basil Gomez, Sara Graves, Robert Hazen, Leslie Hsu, Danie Kinkade, Kerstin Lehnert, Chris Marone,Don Middleton, Anders Noren, Genevieve Pearthree, Mohan Ramamurthy,Erin Robinson,George Percivall, Stephen Richard, Celina Suarez, Doug Walker (2013) Open Data: Crediting a Culture of Cooperation.

Kannan-Narasimhan, Rangapriya, and Barbara S. Lawrence. 2013. Behavioral Integrity: How Leader Referents And Trust Matter To Workplace Outcomes. Journal of Business Ethics, 111(2), 165-178.

Bolukbasi, Burcu and Stakeholder Alignment Collaborative. 2013. Open Data: Crediting a Culture of Cooperation. Science, 342, 1041-1042.

Kannan-Narasimhan Rangapriya, Lawrence S. Barbara. (2012). Behavioral Integrity: How Leader Referents and Trust Matter to Workplace Outcomes. Jbus Ethics 111:165-178

Ancona G. Deborah, Paul S. Goodman, Lawrence S. Barbara, Tushman L. Michael. (2011). Time: A New Research Lens. Academy of Management Review, 645-663

Barbara S. Lawrence. (2011). Who is They? Inquiries into how individuals construe social context (Everett Cherrington Hughes Award Lecture). Human Relations64(6): 749-774. [ Link ]

Barbara S. Lawrence and Michael J. Zyphur. (2011). Identifying organizational faultlines with latent class cluster analysis. Organizational Research Methods14(1): 32-57. [ Link ]

Gibson E. Donald, Lawrence S. Barbara (2010). Women’s and Men’s Career Referents: How Gender Composition and Comparison Level Shape Career Expectations. Organizational Science Vo.21, No.6 November- December 2010, pp. 1159-1175

Barbara S. Lawrence. (2010). Careers, social context and interdisciplinary thinking. Human Relations64(1): 59-84. [ Link ]

Donald E. Gibson and Barbara S. Lawrence. (2010). Women's and men's career referents: How gender composition and comparison level shape career expectations. Organization Science21(6): 1159-1175. [ Link ]

Barbara S. Lawrence and Pamela S. Tolbert. (2007). Organizational demography and individual careers: Structure, norms, and outcomes. In Gunz, Hugh, and Maury Peiperl (Eds.), Handbook of Career StudiesSage, 399-421. [ Link ]

Bikhchandai Sushil, Lawrence S. Barbara, Longstaff Francis, Scott Carol (2006). Report of the Gender Equity Committee. AGSM Gender Equity Report

Barbara S. Lawrence. (2006). Organizational reference groups: A missing perspective on social context. Organization Science17: 80-100. [ Link ]

Lawrence S. Barbara (20041) How Old You Are May Depend on Where You Work. Next Generation Business Handbook. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, pp. 986-1006

Cardona Pablo, Lawrence S. Barbara, Bentler M. Peter (2004). The Influence of Social and Work Exchange Relationships on Organizational Citizenship Behavior. Group & Organizational Management, Vol.29 No.2, April 2004 219-247

Barbara S. Lawrence. (2004). How old you are may depend on where you work. Next Generation Business Handbook57: 986-1006. [ Link ]

Goodman S. Paul, Lawrence S . Barbara, Ancona G. Deborah, Tushman L. Michael. (2001). Introduction to Special Issue on Time

Lawrence S. Barbara (1997). The Blackbox of Organizational Demography Organization Science. Vol 8, No 1. January- February 1997.

Lawrence S. Barbara. (1996) Organizational Age Norms: Why Is It So Hard To Know One When You See One? The Gerontological Society of America. Vol. 36, No. 2 209-220

Lawrence S. Barbara (1990). At the Crossroads: A Multiple-Level Explanation of Individual Attainment Organization Science, Vol 1. Pp. 65-85

Zenger R. Todd, Lawrence S. Barbara (1989) Organizational Demography: The Differential effects of age and tenure distributions on technical communication, Academy of Management Journal Vol.32 , 353-376

Arthur B. Michael , Hall T. Douglas,  Lawrence S. Lawrence (1989). Generating new directions in career theory: the case for a transdisciplinary approach. Handbook of Career Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Barney B. Jay, Lawrence S. Barbara (1989). Pin Stripes , Power Ties, and Personal Relationships: The Economics of Career Strategy

Lawrence S. Barbara (1988). New Wrinkles in the Theory of Age-Demography , Norms, and Performance Ratings. The Academy of Management Journal. Vol 31. No. 2.

Lawrence S. Barbara (1987). An Organizational Theory of Age Effects. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Volume 5, pages 37-71

Lawrence S. Barbara (1984) Historical Perspective: Using the Past to Study the Present. Academy of Management Review. Vol 9. No. 2 307-312

Arthur B. Michael , Lawrence S. Barbara (1984). Perspectives on Environment and Career: An Introduction. Journal of Occupational Behaviour, Vol 5. 1-8

Lawrence S. Barbara (1984). Age grading: The implicit organizational timetable. Journal of Occupational Behaviour, Vol 5. 23-35

Lawrence S. Barbara (1980). The Myth of the Midlife Crisis. Sloan Management Review. 21:4



Everett Cherrington Hughes Award for Career Scholarship, 2009

Best Paper Award of the First International Conference of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management with Co-Authors in Spain and U.S., 1999

Outstanding Publication in Organizational Behavior Award from the Academy of Management, 1998

Citation of Excellence from Anbar Electronic Intelligence, UK, 1998

Best Symposium Award for Opening the Black Box: Uncovering Processes that Connect Demographic Variables to Outcomes Important for Organizational Research, Academy of Management, Boston, 1997

Doctoral Student Appreciation Award, UCLA Anderson, 1994

UCLA Career Development Pre-Tenure Award, 1987 – 1988