Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Overcoming the Main Barriers to the Advancement of Women in Law

According the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), women currently only make up 15% of the partners at law firms across the country. Sandra Roberts has addressed this issue and identified the main barriers women face in the legal field. Check out the following snippet from her opinion piece for The Glass Hammer, or click here for the full text. Of course, instead of trying to conform to the “old boy’s club,” women can always set out on their own…

    There are many reasons to account for the rather low numbers of women enjoying high powered careers in traditional professions. One reason is that men still do business with other men. The old “boy’s club” attitude still reigns true, especially in fields such as law. It can be difficult for a woman to interact in an office space where men go out for cigars on a daily basis to discuss business deals, but forget to invite the couple women that may be in an office space. To overcome this sort of barrier, women have to be skilled socially and maneuver around such barriers. Some women have difficulty in maintaining a feminine image and still trying to be part of the “boy’s club” in negotiating business deals and gaining new clients.

    Another reason for the lack of promotions that women face in these fields is due to other traditional sorts of attitudes. Men are simply expected to advance in a career, regardless of job performance. If a man stays with a company for so many years, then he will likely be given a job promotion at some point during his time with a company. On the other hand, women are not treated with this same sort of societal perception. Women are expected to get results and prove themselves with each business deal. Only by proving themselves, are women typically promoted in a profession such as law or finance.

    Women also continue to face more family responsibilities than men do. Women are expected to balance a career and still take care of children, according to a research study from careerwomen.com. Women also have to take care of ill parents or grandparents, according to this study, more often than men do. Taking care of the home and maintaining a clean environment is still a traditional responsibility that is usually accorded to women. Balancing all of these responsibilities along with a career can often mean that women are exhausted from work and do not perform at work as well as they could.

    Another reason few women still face promotions at work is due to a lack of encouragement from educational leaders. In high school and elementary schools, men are typically the ones encouraged to take on leadership roles such as student body leader or president of a certain club. Women are taught from a young age that men should be leaders, which does not encourage them to actively seek out promotions when they get to the workplace. Rather, women simply stay happy with a mainstream position in a company, because that is simply what feels right and comfortable. Women typically don’t even consider the possibility of becoming CEO in a company, which is one of the reasons they do not make it to such a position. In some schools or educational atmospheres, the opinions of men are also more valued by professors and teachers in subtle ways. This sort of subtle favoritism is something that can also greatly impact the psyche of young girls and make them not want to pursue leadership positions in a school atmosphere. This sort of attitude can remain embedded in young girls even after they graduate from college and are looking for their first jobs in a law firm, financial corporation, or company.

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