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18 Duke J. Gender L. & Pol'y 1 (2010-2011)
Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession: An Empirical Study

handle is hein.journals/djglp18 and id is 3 raw text is: Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession:
An Empirical Study
JUSTIN D. LEVINSON* & DANIELLE YOUNG**
ABSTRACT
Commentators have marveled at the continuing lack of gender diversity in the legal
profession's most influential and honored positions. After achieving near equal numbers
of male and female law school graduates for approximately two decades, the gap between
men and women in law firms, legal academia, and the judiciary remains stark. Several
scholars have argued that due to negative stereotypes portraying women either as
workplace cutthroats or, conversely, as secretaries or housewives, decision-makers
continue to subordinate women to men in the highest levels of the legal profession.
Despite these compelling arguments, no empirical studies have tested whether implicit
gender bias might explain the disproportionately low number of women attorneys in
leadership roles.
In order to test the hypothesis that implicit gender bias drives the continued
subordination of women in the legal profession, we designed and conducted an empirical
study. The study tested whether law students hold implicit gender biases related to
women in the legal profession, and further tested whether these implicit biases predict
discriminatory decision-making. The results of the study were both concerning and
hopeful. As predicted, we found that implicit biases were pervasive; a diverse group of
both male and female law students implicitly associated judges with men, not women,
and also associated women with the home and family. Yet the results of the remaining
portions of the study offered hope. Participants were frequently able to resist their
implicit biases and make decisions in gender neutral ways. Taken together, the results of
the study highlight two conflicting sides of the ongoing gender debate: first, that the
power of implicit gender biases persists, even in the next generation of lawyers; and
second, that the emergence of a new generation of egalitarian law students may offer
some hope for the future.
INTRODUCTION
Commentators have marveled at the continuing lack of gender diversity in
the legal profession's most influential and honored positions. The passage of
time, for years cited as a reason for hope, has failed to put a major dent in the
huge disparities in both career advancement and pay. After achieving near
* Associate Professor of Law and Director, Culture and Jury Project, University of Hawai'i at
Manoa. The authors would like to thank Susan Serrano, Kapua Sproat, Galit Levinson, and Dina
Shek for their input on previous drafts. Sara Ayabe and Jenelle Hughes contributed outstanding
research assistance. Dean Aviam Soifer provided generous summer research support to the first
author.
** Department of Psychology, University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

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