Gender at Work: A Mixed Methods Study of Workplace Inequalities in the Quebec Legal Profession

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Authors
Rondeau, Martine
Keyword
Gender inequality , Legal profession , Quebec legal profession , Differential earnings , Career mobility , Chilly climate , Workplace inequality , Mixed methods
Abstract
The legal profession in Canada was traditionally occupied by men. A sweeping feminization of the legal profession occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, bringing more women to the practice of law. Quebec was the last province to admit women to law. Today, Quebec—with its bi-juridical system of avocat.e.s and notaires—has the most feminized legal profession in North America. Regardless of significant changes to the legal profession, gender inequalities persist. The wage gap remains, where women continue to be paid less than men. Women continue to face challenges with career mobility. Experiences of a chilly climate are an additional barrier faced by women. These inequalities in the context of the legal profession in Quebec have received very limited attention in the sociological literature. This dissertation aims to understand gender inequalities amongst avocat.e.s and notaires in Quebec. I focus on three different dynamics of inequality: (1) differential earnings; (2) career mobility (career progress, job satisfaction, departures from law, and departures from private practice); and (3) chilly workplace climate. To explore these dynamics, I use a mixed methods approach. For the quantitative analyses, I rely on a total of 361 longitudinal surveys. For the qualitative analyses, I draw on 50 interviews with avocat.e.s and notaires who have over 20 years of experience in the Quebec legal profession. My study reveals that although a gender gap exists in earnings, the gap is best explained by professional group differences. The evidence shows that gender best predicts the career mobility aspect of departures from private practice. My findings also illustrate how the chilly climate faced by women is characterized by exclusion, sexist comments and stereotypes, negative perceptions of working mothers, and sexual harassment. I conclude that the three dynamics of gender inequality for legal professionals in Quebec are best explained with an integration of theoretical approaches and a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.
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