Debra Cassens Weiss writes in ABA Journal:
Deborah Rhode, director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School, has a favorite New Yorker cartoon that shows a king and queen in the throne room. The queen turns to the king and remarks, “But when a woman has someone’s head cut off, she’s a bitch.”
The cartoon gets a laugh when she shows it to women, Rhode says. Women lawyers can identify with the feeling that when they take the same action as a man, they may be judged differently. And research backs up their perception.
The research suggests that women lawyers are more likely to be judged in a harsher light than men when they display assertiveness, self-promotion or anger, according to University of California at Hastings law professor Joan Williams.
The double standard is highlighted in Williams’ soon-to-be-released survey of nearly 3,000 lawyers, as well as a separate study of courtroom closing arguments.
The study participants were asked whether they would hire the lawyers. The participants used positive aspects of the angry closings to justify hiring male lawyers but referred to negative aspects of anger to justify not hiring the female lawyers.
The women lawyers who showed anger were deemed to be less competent, as well as shrill, hysterical, grating and ineffective, according to the ASU Now article.
Rhode tells the ABA Journal she agrees the double standard still exists, and it affects women in any leadership role. She describes the problem as a “likability confidence tradeoff,” in which women need to be assertive enough to command confidence but not so assertive as to seem abrasive.