Implicit Leadership Theories and Gender

Prior to starting my internship, I believed that men would attain greater legitimacy and influence within the law firm than women who held similar positions, however, after spending several weeks at the firm I don’t believe this to be true. Implicit biases against women are present in a range of industries, including the legal field, however among the associates and partners, these biases and their effects are not present. I sit right outside of Laura’s office, a partner with over 20 years of experience and the fact that she is a woman appears to have no effect on how much she is respected. Both men and women in the office are constantly seeking her opinion on various cases in a wide variety of practice areas and she is highly valued for her knowledge and abilities. Beyond Laura’s office, there are several other male partners with offices nearby and they have at most half as many colleagues stopping into their office to seek advice. Laura’s knowledge and abilities make her a valued and influential part of the firm, despite any implicit gender biases men may hold which could affect female legitimacy.

This theory does seem to have some merit among other individuals working at the firm who aren’t lawyers. The paralegals and administrators at Donovan Hatem are all women and are treated far worse by the lawyers. In general, the partners and associates, although they hold different positions, treat each other with the same amount of respect regardless of gender. However, the male lawyers seem rude and impatient with the administrators. This could be because they are busy and don’t want to waste time on tasks that aren’t billable, which are almost exclusively handled by administrators and paralegals, but male lawyers are just far less respectful to their female colleagues who aren’t lawyers. When men and women hold similar positions as lawyers they are respected and treated as equals, but when there is a difference in position, the male lawyers treat the female administrators far worse than the female lawyers do. I believe that implicit leadership theories about what makes an individual valuable in a law firm has far more to do with education and applicable skills than gender, however, gender appears to play a larger role in how individuals are treated when the positions are unequal.