Published on April 13th, 2012 | by Steven Hodson0
To Overcome Discrimination In Large Law Firms Women Use Special Strategies
We are all pretty well familiar with the term “glass ceiling” when it comes to women trying to get into the boardroom of coprotations but a recent study by the Leeds University Business School and the University of Manchester has shown that both women and ethnic minorities use special strategies to overcome discrimination that exists in large law firms.
Dr. Jennifer Tomlinson (LUBS) and Professor Daniel Muzio (UoM) interviewed 32 white women and 27 women and nine men from ethnic minorities who worked for firms in London. Of those questioned 12 were partners, 29 were non-partner soliciters, ten were trainees, seven were barristers, and the remaining 10 were academics, executives and paralegals.
The researchers found that some of the strategies employed included
- taking up hobbies, customs and dress of the dominant work group
- compromising their values and aspirations for family life
- Asian women made a conscious choice to wear western clothing rather than traditional Asian dress at work so that they wouldn’t look “too ethnic”
- minimizing the visibility and impact of family, concealing family pictures, returning quickly after maternity leave
- subscribing to stereotypical masculine career trajectories
- compromise personal integrity by not complaining about sexism
- “play the game” by sitting on as many committees as possible in order to keep their name front and center
Dr. Tomlinson said that Law Society surveys had revealed that lawyers from ethnic minorities were over-represented in the legal aid sector, and were more likely to work in small high street firms or as sole practitioners, while barristers from ethnic minorities were heavily concentrated in a few chambers, drawing much of their work from their own communities and specialising in criminal defence and immigration rather than more lucrative commercial work.
She said that there was: “extensive evidence that while overtly discriminatory practices have largely been dismantled, the top echelons of the legal profession remain not only dominated by white, upper-middle class men, but as sites of subtle institutional discrimination.”