Friday, December 14, 2012

Women Lawyers: The Double Bind in Action

The law profession is a highly gendered institution in several ways; for example, women are currently concentrated in the lower ranks, and less than 25% of law firm partners are women. As of 2011, 31.9 % of all lawyers were women, which is less than a third. A website tracking women in law estimates that it will take more than a woman lawyer’s lifetime to achieve equality to men in the same profession.
            Female lawyers live the double bind everyday as they are required to be assertive, confident, and emotionless, but are still under scrutiny for whether or not they appear feminine. One study of women lawyer’s job satisfaction found that while “women are less satisfied than men with their level of responsibility, recognition for their work, chances for advancement, policies of their organization, salary, and control over amount and manner of work,” that they still reported the same level of job satisfaction as their male colleagues. Thus even though women are less happy with their work circumstances as lawyers, they are still happy with their jobs.
The good news is that because women only recently began entering the law profession in large numbers, the institution will likely improve for them over time. For example, although less than 25% of law firm partners are women, it is understandable that law firms would want to attract candidates regardless of gender that still meet the qualifications and experience necessary for such a position. It is likely that as women in the law profession now stay and gain more experience that more women will become qualified for such higher-level positions. Additionally, as more women enter into the management tier, they will hopefully improve conditions for the female lawyers below them. In the meantime, affirmative action laws could be better utilized or created to help ensure that women are receiving fair and equal consideration for advancement opportunities. 
Hull, Kaythleen. 1999. "The Paradox of the Contented Female Lawyer." Law and Society Review Vol. 33 Issue 2. 

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