An article in a recent issue of the ABA Journal may help to shed some light on how women partners fare at larger law firms in terms of office support. The article describes how, in a survey of 142 legal secretaries at larger law firms in 2009 conducted by Chicago-Kent law professor Felice Batlan, not a single secretary expressed a preference for working with a female partner.
The article detailed some of the explanations given by survey respondents:
- “Females are harder on their female assistants, more detail oriented, and they have to try harder to prove themselves, so they put that on you. And they are passive aggressive where a guy will just tell you the task and not get emotionally involved and make it personal.”
- “I just feel that men are a little more flexible and less emotional than women. This could be because the female partners feel more pressure to perform.”
- “Female attorneys have a tendency to downgrade a legal secretary.”
- “I am a female legal secretary, but I avoid working for women because [they are] such a pain in the ass! They are too emotional and demeaning.”
- “Female attorneys are either mean because they’re trying to be like their male counterparts or too nice/too emotional because they can’t handle the stress. Either way, their attitude/lack of maturity somehow involves you being a punching bag.”
- Women lawyers have “an air about them.”
According to the article, Professor Batlan wrote that some legal secretaries indicated that they did not like working for women because women are too independent. One respondent in the survey wrote of her male boss: “My partner in particular tends to forget the little things. I often find myself tailing him as he’s walking out the door to a meeting going down a list of things he may need. Oddly, I don’t feel like my female attorneys need that kind of attention.”
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-Lolita Buckner Inniss
cross-post from Ain’t I a Feminist Legal Scholar, Too?