Women in India's 'Global' Law Firms: Gender Frames and Advantages of New Organizations


Traditionally, legal practice in India, as in the rest of the world, has been a male dominated profession. Over the last two decades, however, India has responded to its call as an aggressively emerging economy by creating new kinds of “global” legal work spaces that attract and offer seemingly gender-neutral advantages for its associates. Given the experience in many other parts of the world, we know that this novelty in structure alone doesn't secure advantages for women working within it. Accordingly, we might expect that gender-based disadvantages operate equally in this newly constructed global corporate sector. However, preliminary interviews with female lawyers in these firms suggest that women are not disadvantaged in these firms in the same ways that traditional accounts of the legal profession suggest. Borrowing from a line of social psychological research, one explanation for this advantage (to the extent that is exists) could be that these “global” organizations are seen as new institutions with little or no coherent gender based stereotypes attached to them and therefore, no frames of reference within which women can immediately be discriminated and/or disadvantaged. It is this ambiguity of gender frames at new sites of innovation that is the focus of this study. Using interviews from women lawyers in large law firms, legal outsourcing firms and traditional litigation practice, it attempts to shed light on the value of institutional factors in determining professional stratification and success.

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