Women in the Law

Myth of Difficult Female Lawyer Bosses May Relate to Brain Wiring, Assistant-at-Law Says

Do women lawyers make more difficult bosses than male lawyers?

There is a myth of cranky female lawyers, according to a legal secretary who identifies herself as the “Assistant-at-Law,” and it may relate to brain wiring and female relationships.

Writing for Texas Lawyer, the Assistant-at-Law lays out her theories. “Women attorneys can seem more difficult than males because of the different way women’s brains work,” she writes. “A woman is wired to seek symbiotic relationships with the people around her, especially other women. Evolutionary psychology finds the origin of this tendency in prehistory, when the women of a village or clan worked together to grow or gather food, and child-rearing was a collective effort.

“Men, on the other hand, tend not to conflate work and personal relationships. They cooperate to get the job done and then move on. They benefit from work friendships, but it does not trouble them deeply if such friendships do not form. But for a woman, the failure to build a warm rapport with the co-worker she depends upon most can have a chilling effect on her overall demeanor.”

“Ancient competitiveness” may cause women lawyers to view their female assistants as inferior or a territorial threat, the Assistant-at-Law says. The female assistant, on the other hand, may be jealous of her female boss’s position.

“This competitive dynamic may also help explain the double standard in which a cranky male lawyer scarcely merits a remark, while a woman who behaves the same way is derided as just another nasty woman lawyer,” the column says. “Male bosses do not arouse the same type of resentment in female assistants because a woman’s competitive drive is directed primarily at other women.”

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