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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Has It Gotten Harder to Be a Woman Attorney?

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Readers had a great discussion in the comments about a week ago in response to a reader who asked, “Do you think it has gotten harder to be a woman attorney?” It prompted 60+ responses — making it one of our biggest comment threads — and we thought it deserved its own post! So, readers, especially if you didn’t join in last time: Where do you stand on this question? Is it a simple “yes” or “no” for you, or much more nuanced?

Note: For today’s conversation, let’s use the context of the Before Times and set aside the complicating factors of the last year, e.g., unexpected/long-term WFH, school closures, mental health struggles. (CorporetteMoms readers have been talking a lot about the parenting-related factors, though!)

Here are some questions prompted by that comment thread on whether it’s gotten harder to be a woman attorney: 

1. One reader wrote that comparing the experiences and struggles of different generations is like comparing apples and oranges. Is it too simplistic to say that women have it harder/easier today as lawyers? 

2. How do you evaluate the tradeoffs? One reader commented that while women may encounter less sexual harassment and blatant sexism than they did decades ago, attorneys today (of any gender) face higher expectations for base hours and for being reachable outside the office, a more difficult path to partnership, and higher student loan debt (without proportionally higher salaries). 

3. What about the differences between working motherhood today vs. 20–40 years ago? If you’re a lawyer mom whose mother was also an attorney, how have your experiences been different? 

4. Many readers mentioned comments/discrimination that women attorneys had to deal with a generation ago that are unacceptable today, and an anonymous commenter said she sees those lawyers as “essentially literal superwomen.” Do you feel the same? 

5. Finally, perhaps we can inject some intersectionality into today’s discussion that wasn’t really part of the comment thread — regarding race, class, etc. As reader “No Face” noted: 

I’ve worked for two separate law firms that were over 90 years old. These firms literally wouldn’t have even interviewed me, a black woman, for an attorney job during most of their histories.

For those readers who weren’t part of the original conversation, what are your thoughts? Do you think it has gotten harder to be a woman attorney? (For readers who are NOT attorneys — has it gotten harder to be a woman professional in general?) And for those who did join in, did any comments make you look at the topic in a new light? 

Some social media images via Deposit Photos / GeorgeRudy.

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