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Are Women More Difficult Bosses for Female Attorneys?

By Kevin Fayle | Last updated on
An article by Vivia Chen that's appearing in May's issue of The American Lawyer, titled "The End of Sisterhood," asks the question whether its harder for female attorneys to work for another woman than it is to work for a man.

In the piece, Chen mentions the results of a recent study by the American Bar Association that found that a majority of female attorneys under age 40 prefer a male boss.  She contrasts that sentiment with the growing movement among female attorneys to band together in order to create more opportunities for women within the male-dominated legal profession.
Chen suggests that acrimony and feelings of betrayal may come up more often when both the superior and the subordinate are women because women may have different expectations for their female superiors than they would for male bosses.  Women, according to this theory, expect that their female superiors would exhibit more understanding and compassion than their male counterparts.

Women expect, in other words, that men will be hierarchical and demanding, but see those same tendencies in their female bosses as a personal betrayal.

But some see the discussion as inherently sexist.  Lauren Rikleen, an author who has written about women's issues in the workplace, says that "[i]t's a very dismissive notion." 

After all, says Rikleen, "[t]here's no counterpart to the term 'catfight' when men compete against each other for client credit."
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