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Gendered Stigma in the Legal Profession


Women began entering the legal profession in large numbers in the 1970s, and in the 50 years since, quantitative evidence shows progress in metrics such as percentage of women in the profession and salaries. Qualitative evidence, on the other hand, demonstrates the persistent presence of gendered stigma. In this project, “gendered stigma” refers to circumstances resulting from one’s gender as a salient feature of their work, serving to discredit one’s abilities and accomplishments. The gender-driven experiences of women new to the profession belies the assumption that simply increasing the number of women would solve the disparities between men and women who practice law. This project aims to uncover differences in the lived experiences of women and men in the modern legal profession. Presumably, institutionalized gendered stigma is still prevalent in the profession and likely negatively affects women attorneys at work and at home more so than their male colleagues. An in-depth exploration into the day-to-day experiences of attorneys illuminates how gendered stigma is recognized, perceived, and internalized by attorneys. This study uses identity theory and stigma analyses to explore the cycle of gendered stigma still prevalent in the legal profession. This theoretical foundation then informs practical solutions for mitigating the negative effects of gendered stigma on the profession and the individuals practicing within it.

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