Women in the Law

Study Author: Law Firm to Keep Status Quo in Spite of Gender Discrepancies in Performance Reviews


The co-author of a study (PDF) that found that a Wall Street law firm was giving higher numerical performance reviews to male associates than it was female associates with equally positive narrative performance reviews says the firm doesn’t intend to change anything about its performance review process.

Law professor Joan Williams of the University of California at Hastings, social psychology professor Monica Biernat of Kansas University and litigation consultant M.J. Tocci suggested that “gender stereotypes led to pro-male bias on the evaluative judgments that mattered.”

Tocci told Vivia Chen at The Careerist that the law firm, which hired her and the others to do the study of its firm, that one partner said to her, ” ‘We’d like for you to help us get a better outcome, but we’d rather not change anything.’ “

Tocci told Chen that she thinks the firm (Tocci’s agreement with the firm prevents her identifying it) believed the conclusions of the study but just had too little incentive to implement changes—such as training partners who give the evaluations to be more conscious of bias.

Although the firm was “getting dinged as one of the worst places for women to work,” Tocci said, clients don’t care about the firm’s record on women, and the firm has no trouble attracting female associates.

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