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While women are able to work in a wider range of job now than in the past there are still some work forces where their presence isn’t represented equally. One of those area is within the legal realm, more specifically lead counsels according to Robin Shea in her article on the LexisNexis Legal Newsroom.
Stephanie A. Scharf and Roberta D. Liebenberg led a study that looked into the following claim that the court system discriminates against female lawyers. Both Scharf and Liebenberg believed this to be true, but decided to analyze a collection of federal cases in northern Illinois from 2013. They found that men were lead counsel far more than were. How much more? Check out the breakdowns below:
So are the above numbers an illustration of discrimination or some sort of bias favoring men? They could be but, probably not.
According to Robin Shea, most women (in her experience) are not being forced out, instead they are voluntarily leaving the litigation field. What is even more telling is that their male bosses would want them to stay.
“Their bosses wanted them to stay – and they didn’t leave because judges or opposing counsel called them “honey.” According to what they said to me, they left because they didn’t like being in “adversarial mode” all the time. Or because they had a better opportunity – for example, an in-house position.”
Shea voices that the people are quick to make the assumption (without any evidence apart from the disparity) that gender disparities are a result of bias.
“ ‘Disparity” does not necessarily equal “discrimination.’”
You can read the entire study here.
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I know that as a female litigator, there are often times when I wish I worked in-house because it is tiring to be in adversarial-mode all the time so I can definitely see that being a reason for the disparity.