Gender Inequality in the Chinese Legal Profession

22 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2009 Last revised: 25 Dec 2012

See all articles by Ethan Michelson

Ethan Michelson

Maurer School of Law; Indiana University Bloomington, Department of Sociology

Date Written: March 2, 2009


In China's urban context of labor retrenchment, women are faring poorly relative to their male counterparts. Is the same true in China's incipient, dynamic, and expanding legal profession? Findings from four sources of quantitative data suggest that gender inequality in China's private and highly market-driven legal profession is a microcosm of larger patterns of female disadvantage in China's evolving urban labor market. Although employment opportunities for women lawyers have greatly expanded quantitatively, their careers are qualitatively less successful than those of their male counterparts in terms of both income and partnership status. In the Chinese bar, women's significantly shorter career trajectories are perhaps the most important cause of their lower incomes and slimmer chances of becoming a law firm partner. Future research must identify the causes of this significant career longevity gap between men and women in the Chinese legal profession.

Keywords: lawyers, China, gender, legal profession

JEL Classification: J44, J21, J23, J31

Suggested Citation

Michelson, Ethan, Gender Inequality in the Chinese Legal Profession (March 2, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Ethan Michelson (Contact Author)

Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
812-856-1521 (Phone)
812-855-0781 (Fax)


Indiana University Bloomington, Department of Sociology ( email )

Ballantine Hall
Bloomington, IN 47405

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