Privilege boosts gender bias for law firm applicants

by |
If wealth and privilege provide an advantage entering a law career, it's only true for men.
Privilege has been found to boost the prospects of male but not female BigLaw applicants in a study recently published in The American Sociological Review.
In the study titled Class Advantage, Commitment Penalty: The Gendered Effect of Social Class Signals in an Elite Labor Market, Lauren Rivera of Northwestern University and András Tilcsik of the University of Toronto sent fake résumés of applicants with varying gender, interests and wealth to 316 BigLaw firms.
All of the resumes indicated the applicants went to second-tier law schools but were at the top of their class.
Professional details and experiences were kept similar with minute details that indicated the applicant's class and just how privileged they are.
On extracurricular activities, the differences were pronounced between privileged applicants who indicated having expensive and exclusive hobbies and the less privileged applicants who had more mundane extracurricular activities.
Privileged applicants liked sailing, polo and classical music while less privileged applicants liked track and field sports and country music.
The study generated 22 interview invites. Higher-class men got 13 invitations, higher-class women got three invitations, lower-class men got one invitation, and lower-class women got five invitations.
The authors of the study also surveyed 210 lawyers and asked them to evaluate the same fake résumés on perceived professional drive and fit with the BigLaw firm’s culture and clientele.
After the evaluation of the résumés, privileged men were found by the BigLaw lawyers to be more committed and a better fit for BigLaw culture and clientele than privileged women.
As a result, the privileged men were given more recommendations for interviews.
There were also 20 among those 210 lawyers who had experience hiring and their evaluation of the résumés were revealing.
Privileged women, it turns out, were widely perceived by this sample as less committed to law careers and are just "biding time" or looking for a husband.
Less privileged women were described as "hungry" and expected to work hard due to "law school debt" and "mouths to feed."
Privileged male applicants, on the other hand, were perceived to be great fits to BigLaw culture due to their exclusive interests and hobbies.

Related stories:
Female partners’ compensation still 44 per cent below male colleagues
Study finds black lawyers have less career mobility