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Bad News for Women with Republican Bosses

The Careerist

April 8, 2016

072015-kasich-13I don't want to speak for all my sisters, but I'll go out on a limb: The idea of having Donald Trump as your boss makes you puke. Based on his comments about women thus far, Trump seems less than enlightened—more like an untrained Neanderthal. You can just imagine how he'd treat a female employee: snipe about her appearance, taunt her about her hormones and otherwise subject her to all sorts of creative forms of humiliation. That's the Donald.

But what about working for the other Republicans in the race? Like Ted Cruz, who has a wife with a Harvard MBA who worked for Goldman Sachs. Or John Kasich (above), who always surrounding himself with his wife and daughters and telling us what a fair guy he is. (Okay, he did say that women "left their kitchens" to support him at one point.) You might not agree with them or the other Republicans on policy matters, but is there any reason to think they're not respectful of women and supportive of gender equity?

Actually, yes.

According to a new study that focused on Am Law 200 law firms, Republican male bosses do not give female subordinates the same work opportunities and promotions that they accord men. Analyzing male law firm partners' ideology (based on political donations) and its effect on women's career patterns, the study's authors (Seth Carnahan of the University of Michigan and Brad Greenwood of Temple University), find that female lawyers with conservative bosses lagged behind their peers who worked for liberals.

Here are some key points in their findings:

- Conservative managers tend not to participate in their firm's diversity efforts and see less need in changing the diversity record at their firm.
- Conservative bosses are less likely to train and develop female subordinates. 
- Women working for conservative bosses experience higher turnover.
- Women working for conservative bosses have lower promotion rates.
A lot of this seems intuitive: Conservatives are more likely to abide by traditional values—like the idea that the workplace is primarily a man's domain, while a woman's is the home. Hence, why bother fostering the career of someone who doesn't belong at the firm in the first place? The authors also write in the study that "a conservative male manager may be more likely to view female subordinates as less promising, more risky investments than male subordinates."
That might all seem quaint, but for female lawyers it could mean a stymied career. According to Carnahan, the difference between working for a conservative and liberal boss is profound: "If you move from a conservative to a liberal [boss], the gender gap decreases by 80 percent." 
By any standard, that's a big fat gap! Carnahan explains: "The 80 percent refers to the gap between male and female associates' promotion chances." He adds that men are about 2 percent more likely than women to be promoted in a practice dominated by liberals, "while in a conservative practice area this gap increases to about 3.5 percent, for an increase of 80 percent. These numbers are quite large when we consider that the average associate has an 8 percent chance of being promoted to partner in a given year."
The logical thing, it seems, is that women should dump their Republican bosses and hitch their wagons to liberal partners—preferably die-hard, bleeding heart types. You know, someone with a Bernie Sanders sticker on his car.
Vivia Chen    vchen@alm.com


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I think you're painting with too wide a brush. All groups are diverse - if we picked the most extreme members of any group as being representative of the whole, we would most likely keep to ourselves.

During law school, I worked for a very conservative, federal appellate judge. Surprisingly, he hired mostly liberal clerks - many of whom were women. He was interested in our opinions and loved to debate - in a friendly, respectful way. I learned that he cared about the same things we did, but he took a different approach based on his view of the world (and don't we all have our own view of the world?) We changed his mind on occasion and he changed ours for sure (especially my perception of Republicans.) I felt he was invested in all of us equally.

This political circus is not representative of who we are as a nation. We need more people who are open-minded and willing to talk with one another rationally and we won't get there if we shut out entire groups of people.

Dear Ms. Chen, I think your blanket indictment of all Republican bosses is quite a stretch, even for an obvious ideologue such as yourself. I agree that Trump is a horse's behind but in our current bunch of candidates he unfortunately will probably prevail due to their lack of integrity or skill. Sad day for America all considered. Ken Farrell. Retired CEO and a Republican

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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