Stolen Voices: A Linguistic Approach to Understanding Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession

45 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2023

Date Written: August 1, 2022

Abstract

Relying heavily on socio-linguistical (language and society) studies, this article makes the case that the legal profession’s obedience to stereotypical masculine language “practices” significantly contributes to implicit gender bias. A large body of socio-linguistic scholarship dating back to the 1970’s has found that men and women exhibit subtle but significant lexical differences in the way that they speak and write. Though these differences are arguably linked equally, if not more, to issues of power, socialization, and cultural expectations than to biology, the differences still operate to erect barriers to success for professional women – particularly in a male dominated profession such as the law. Further, socio-linguistic and management theory scholarship demonstrates that professional women regularly encounter bias based upon stereotypes of what their communication style should be – creating untenable situations where women must make strategic and often no-win decisions about how to “perform” language.

Keywords: linguistics, gender, legal profession, women in the law

Suggested Citation

Kline, Emily, Stolen Voices: A Linguistic Approach to Understanding Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession (August 1, 2022). UCLA Women's Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4534973

Emily Kline (Contact Author)

Rutgers School of Law ( email )

Newark, NJ
United States
973-901-2686 (Phone)

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