Discrimination in Law

Having sued law firms for sex discrimination in the past, I know from personal experience that firms discriminate against women. Recently my experience was confirmed in an article in the National Law Journal (subscription required).

According to the NLJ, only one in five women in Big Law firms makes it to partner, although there is a wide spread among firms and practice areas. Employment lawyers (fortunately but perhaps not surprisingly) have the highest representation of women, whereas Intellectual Property firms have the lowest.

Discrimination in science starts early

While IP firms attribute this deficiency to a low representation of women in science, there is good statistical evidence that discrimination in science and technology starts from the bottom up and is rife not only in scientific professions but also in education.

As the New York Times has observed based on scientific studies at Yale University, low numbers of women in science are entirely a matter of cultural bias, and yet myths of disparities in innate ability persist:

As so many studies have demonstrated, success in math and the hard sciences, far from being a matter of gender, is almost entirely dependent on culture — a culture that teaches girls math isn’t cool and no one will date them if they excel in physics; a culture in which professors rarely encourage their female students to continue on for advanced degrees; a culture in which success in graduate school is a matter of isolation, competition and ridiculously long hours in the lab; a culture in which female scientists are hired less frequently than men, earn less money and are allotted fewer resources.

Interestingly enough, bias against women in science was as common among female scientists as among male scientists.


It is not hard to see that if a general cultural bias pervades both law and science, it is reasonable to conclude that cultural bias pervades our culture, certainly an unsurprising conclusion to many women.

Employment lawyers alone cannot reform the culture, but at least they can help level the professional playing field.


© Charles Williamson Day, Jr., 2016. All rights reserved.

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