THE OVER REPRESENTATION OF MEN AT THE TOP OF CITY LAW FIRMS: POWER, CULTURE, STRUCTURE AND THE PARADOX OF TIME
Despite the growing importance attributed to the development of a more representative legal system in England and Wales by the legal community, men remain significantly over represented in large City law firms. A puzzling aspect of this disparity is that in recent years many firms have developed an array of initiatives aimed at retaining female talent and helping women progress. This empirical study asks why men working for City law firms continue to enjoy advantages in career progression, propelling them to the top of their profession. Altering the focus away from women solicitors’ underrepresentation to men’s overrepresentation draws on recent scholarly writings that argue in favour of shifting the conceptualization of inequality from marginalized identity groups to dominant ones. This new train of thought has a notable effect on how we understand the problem and its potential solution. Namely, it exposes how patriarchal power remains at the root of gender inequality. This study’s main findings have strong links to the concept of ‘time'. First it finds that time spent at work remains City firms’ primary measure of success. Second it argues that diversity programmes, often based on reduced time at work, paradoxically encourage users to do less of what firms continue to value most, invariably triggering career limitation. Third, it posits that despite their shortcomings, women lawyers remain the main consumers of diversity initiatives due to the persistence of a domestic gendered division of labour, often leaving them with less time for the workplace than their male colleagues. Fourth, it maintains that as gendered organisations, City firms operate on the basis of this open availability, particularly in terms of their promotion process. Finally, it queries whether the patriarchal workplace template may be disrupted by greater gender fluidity and a societal and organisational move away from stereotypical male practices and behaviour.
- Theses