Robert L. Nelson, Ioana Sendroiu, Ronit Dinovitzer, and Meghan Dawe, Perceiving Discrimination: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in the Legal Workplace, Law and Social Inquiry, Volume 44, Issue 4 (2019).
In this article, the authors discuss workplace inequities based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. To do so, they combine quantitative and qualitative data to go beyond “analyzing unequal outcomes” and delve further into “the mechanisms that produce and maintain workplace hierarchies of race, gender, and sexual orientation.” The qualitative component uses perception as a measure, that is, the authors “examine[d] whether lawyers perceive that they have been the target of workplace discrimination.”
Although some might be hesitant to consider perceptions as a reliable measure, consider that “[p]erceptions of discrimination by marginalized groups are significant in their own right as a matter of workplace equality, but will also likely affect their health and well-being, their job satisfaction, and their willingness to continue working for a given employer.” Additionally, these perceptions, with a few exceptions examined by the authors, tend to be supported by the quantitative data regarding measurable inequitable outcomes on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
This qualitative data is also important in determining “how inequality is created and maintained, rather than merely its extent.” By analyzing this data, the authors necessarily highlight areas and circumstances of perceived discrimination from which employers in the legal profession can derive solutions for combatting such inequities, or perception of inequities. Examples could include instituting efforts or programs that foster community and belonging; formalized personnel structures and policies that produce consistency and transparency in employment law processes like hiring, promotion, and complaint procedures; and generally having sound hiring practices that lead to increased diversity in the workplace, which will in turn lend itself to greater emotional and informational support to members of traditionally underincluded groups.
The inequities and perceived inequities that this article illustrates poses a challenge to us all as legal professionals to understand the scope of the problem and implement strategies to remove these barriers. Indeed, as the authors point out, “[t]o the extent that lawyers of different races, genders, and sexual orientations are exposed to discrimination that limits their career development, it will erode the capacity of the legal profession to provide equal representation to all groups in society. . . . The fate of equal justice may be tied to the fate of equal opportunity in lawyer careers.”
August 13, 2021 in Equal Employment, Gender, LGBT, Race, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink
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