The Partially Unresolved Issue of Gender Discrimination in Legal Profession

Despite the emergence of several feminist movements fighting for women’s rights in the society, it is still quite inevitable that in a field once dominated entirely by men; women’s movements do not have any say at all. It has been a prevailing social issue that remains partially unresolved. They might have acquired the right to enter the legal profession and fight on trial courts as male lawyers do centuries ago but they could never escape the silent sexism that still lingers in the legal profession.

Clearly, the power of law could not hinder the fact that women, regardless of colour or ethnicity, are still prone to discrimination and marginalization in a profession that men commonly dominate. Gender roles have always been an ongoing social issue in every patriarchal tradition and culture. Even in the present time, women still feel trapped in their own femininity as domestic demands restricts them in every way possible. This is happening despite the numerous feminist movements that have emerged throughout the years.

Women’s Status in Legal Profession Women have been commonly treated as outsiders when it comes to employment. It is not surprising though because women have been exclusive to domestic purposes alone some decades ago. Today, women are trying to climb the career ladder to make names and identity of themselves. However, this goal comes with consequences and prices that is usual for an “outsider” trying to penetrate a particular norm that has already been established even in the beginning of time.

Cases of harassment, discrimination, and humiliation of women lawyers have become very common issues in the profession. The membership in legal profession have been controlled for a very long time that the community of lawyers have restricted the quantity of lawyers by “exercising both formal control over admissions to law school and bar membership, and informal referral and social mechanisms” (Women Entering Legal Profession 108). They practiced this process by preventing outsiders such as women and other minorities to easily avail of the legal community’s membership.

“These processes enforced the understanding that outsiders such as women and racial minorities would be excluded from the legal community or would be kept on its fringes in low-visibility, low-prestige specialties, serving others like themselves (Women Entering Legal Profession 108). A case of gender discrimination is discussed in the publication of Women Entering Legal Profession where it describes how women are mistreated and stereotyped in a particular law school. Both faculty and men students made the educational environment inhospitable to women.

While all students were subject to ridicule, particularly if they did not provide the right response when called on in class, women were rarely called on, and on such occasions, they were subjected to questions designed to embarrass them (e. g. , being asked to explain the details of rape cases) or were humiliated by such comments as “better go back to the kitchen” if they stumbled in recitation. Additionally, women knew they would be expected to respond on “Ladies’ Day,” which for many professors and men students was a show put on at the women’s expense.

For example, one professor sat in the audience asking questions and told all the 3 women in the class to stand at the podium “rather like performing bears” (Women Entering Legal Profession 108). Clear enough; women are more prone in work-related humiliation than men especially in the legal profession are whereas most male attorneys have the tendency to leave sexist and crude remarks out of ego. “Women in the legal profession remain underrepresented in positions of greatest status, influence and economic reward. . .

The problems are compounded by the lack of consensus that there are in fact serious problems” (Women Entering Legal Profession 109). Legal Profession as a Fraternal Profession “Recent contributions to the literature on gender stratification suggest that sexist behaviour is most likely to occur where organizational culture specifically values characteristics traditionally attributed to men and where power is supported by instrumental and social cliques” (Rosenberg 417). The legal profession is considered to be a fraternal profession where men feel more comfortable competing with other men.

Similar to the medicine profession and religious ministries, doctors and priests are more used to having exclusively male colleagues. These three professions are established as strictly for men as they require the intelligence, critical thinking, labour, and religious canons that only men are believed to possess. The history of women’s role in the society has definitely affected their career development today. The idea of women in the same profession where men are deemed to be excelling sort of produces intimidation in the end of men.

It is often asserted by scholars that “Law is necessarily the most conservative of the professions and it is not strange that people are slow in accepting such an innovation as the woman lawyer” (Prouty). Edith Prouty asserts in her journal that the feeling of fraternity among the male members of the legal profession is similar to that feeling of doctors and ministers. The fraternal feeling encourages them to stick to codes which make it hard for them to adapt easily to change. “they form one brotherhood and there is a certain friendliness and courtesy among them that I think is not found among the members of other professions (Prouty).

Inequality in Earnings and Promotions Studies also reveal that women lawyers earn less than what men lawyers earn. They are also less likely to be granted partnerships on law firms than men. In addition to that, research reveals that “Some 20 percent of the female respondents identified themselves as having achieved partnership status whereas 55 percent of the male respondents were partners. The women reported average hourly earnings of $16. 30, while the men earned an average of $28. 30 per hour” (Lentz & Laband 231).

However, the female are said to be lesser in legal tenure than men as most of the female respondents have only been in the profession for 5 years at most while men have been practicing for more than 10 years. One of the causes of these lower rates is the lesser demand of clients for female attorneys. Research suggests that some of the structural constraints experienced by female attorneys are “employer bias and institutionalized patterns favoring men may operate net of individual factors in explaining gender inequality” (Beckman and Philips 679).

Women are also believed to be “more likely than men to experience private law firm practice as inhospitable and to leave before the partnership decision. Women lawyers have fewer opportunities for locating clients (‘rain making’) than do men and are less likely to have a mentor” (Beckman and Philips 208). Edith Prouty, a female attorney, shares her experiences in dealing with clients preferring male attorney in a law firm where she shares partnership. She testifies that not all female clients prefer female lawyers. Some are actually more comfortable with male lawyers as their defenders of justice.

In her journal, Prouty narrates how a woman familiar to her since her childhood had left a sexist remark when the firm’s stenographer offered Prouty’s service instead of her father’s. One day when I was alone in my office an old lady, who had known me from babyhood, came in and enquired for my father. The stenographer informed her that he was out but that Miss Prouty was in. The old lady gave a contemptuous sniff and announced with engaging frankness: “I want someone who knows more than Miss Prouty. ” I have always been told that woman could not be depended upon to stand by each other – perhaps this is true (Prouty).

This situation mentioned by Prouty reveals that one of the primary reasons why there are fewer demands for female lawyers. As a society where females are not commonly depended on by the society regarding huge issues relating to legal or medical. Most scholars argue that this is due to the fact that majority believes that women are less educated than men. Such argument is clear in Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft is one of the most renowned feminist who fought for equal education to be granted to women.

Mary Wollstonecraft main point in her fight for equality is the idea that women must be given the same level of education as men does. This is clearly established in one of her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, where she claims that, “Contending for the rights of women, my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge, for truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice” (Wollstonecraft vi). Attempted Resolutions

Several women had made progress in trying to achieve the rights that women deserve in the society. Many Acts have been passed to abolish discrimination of any kind in an employment company or organization. One of these acts is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It states that: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 USC 2000e, makes it unlawful for an employer to hire or discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his/her compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

This covers hiring, firing, promotions and all workplace conduct (The U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Education for women lawyers has also become an issue with regard to law schools’ selective admissions. The 1972 Educational Amendments Act is passed to resolve this issue. The act states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (United States Department of Labor).

In our society today, it is evident that the fight for identity is gradually improving. Women, nowadays, are making names for themselves in terms of career aside from the normal profession of domesticity. One is now becoming a woman by building her own identity. Conclusion Women’s status has always been challenged by society for many years now. Apparently, being a lawyer has posed some great challenges and trials for aspiring female attorneys in the past.

Humiliations, discrimination, and degradation have become women’s adversaries in their struggle for gender equality in the workplace. There was even a time in history that even female members of the society do not find their own female attorneys credible enough to handle their legal cases. It is quite reasonable to say that sexism is still manifesting these days. Feminist movements, however, have done everything they could to acquire the most achievable equality for women.

Apparently, with the situation of women today in professions not only limited to law, their efforts still needs more women to support them and men to understand them Works Cited Beckman, Christine M. & Damon J. Phillips. “Interorganizational Determinants of Promotion: Client Leadership and the Attainment of Women Attorneys. ” American Sociological Review Vol. 70, No. 4 (Aug. , 2005), pp. 678-701. JSTOR. American Sociological Association. 28 April 2009. <http://www. jstor. org/stable/4145382> Lentz, Bernard F. & David N. Laband.

“Is There Sex Discrimination in the Legal Profession? Further Evidence on Tangible and Intangible Margins. ” The Journal of Human Resources Vol. 28, No. 2 (Spring, 1993), pp. 230-258. JSTOR. University of Wisconsin Press. 28 April 2009. <http://www. jstor. org/stable/146202> Prouty, Edith. “Women in the Law: Their past, Present and Future. ” 22 April 1876. The Woman’s Journal: Boston. 27 April 2009. <http://womenslegalhistory. stanford. edu/articles/pastpresentfuture. htm> Rosenberg, Janet, Perlstadt, Harry & William R.

F. Phillips. “Now That We Are Here: Discrimination, Disparagement, and Harassment at Work and the Experience of Women Lawyers. ” Gender and Society Vol. 7, No. 3 (Sep. , 1993), pp. 415-433. JSTOR. 28 April 2009. Sage Publications, Inc. <http://www. jstor. org/stable/189801> Wollstonecraft, M. (1796). A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. London: Oxford University. “Women Entering the Legal Profession. ” 27 April 2009. <http://www. uk. sagepub. com/upm-data/12634_Chapte