That seems like a ridiculously quaint question. But the answer is yes, according to research by The Wharton School and McGill University.
The study, which analyzed data of 1,255 male and female graduates of elite MBA programs, finds that women tend to shy away from certain high-paying Wall Street jobs, because they regard them as vats of testosterone. Here's how Knowledge@Wharton describes this "gender segregation":
The researchers' main finding was that women were significantly less likely to apply to Wall Street–type finance jobs, somewhat less likely to apply to consulting jobs, and more likely to apply to jobs in general management, most notably internal finance and marketing.
I know, I know—you're about to tell me that Big Law doesn't have that problem. At the junior level, at least, women seem to flock eagerly to all types of large-firm practices.
But here's the troubling new trend: Women are starting to thin out at the associate ranks too. According to NALP's newly released study, women associate rates went from 45.66 percent in 2009 to 45.05 percent in 2012. The change has been small but steady for the last three years. That's worrisome because precious few women end up staying in law firms in the long run. (As I've written ad nauseam, women drop out of firms at much higher rates than men, and few rise to the level of equity partner.)
So even before we get close to fixing that leaky pipeline mess, it looks like we might be already losing the pipeline.
I hope that the declining rate of female associates is just a fluke. It seems, though, that an increasing number of women aren't buying the initial seductions of Big Law—the money, glamour, prestige. Setting an attractive bait for female applicants at the entry level isn't addressing the underlying problems, according to Matthew Bidwell, one of the authors in the Wharton/McGill study. He tells Knowledge@Wharton:
It’s not just a question of sticking more women in the company brochures, or having more women be part of the company’s on-campus recruiting. It’s a question of trying to change the culture, job perceptions, and kinds of behavior that people exhibit.
Ah, those sticky, icky issues: culture, perception, and behavior. Easy fix, right?
Frankly, I don't believe Big Law has a macho image. (Is machismo ever associated with lawyers anyway?) But many women do see it as a boys' club—and that's enough to drive some of them away.
Hat tip: The Glass Hammer.