New Returns to Essentialism
This chapter discusses the ways in which relationships between female professionals and their clients, peers, and mentors help create and reinforce interactional hierarchies in these spaces. Certainly, professionals in these firms have been socialized to be comfortable in mixed-gender settings. But although supportive peer interactions are necessary to create an environment of gender parity, women in elite law firms also are especially backed by an important external audience that does not actively discriminate on the basis of gender — their clients. Elite law firms in India, unlike their traditional counterparts, retain a “sophisticated” client base of international and high-end domestic clients. This setup affords a comparatively advantageous position — especially for women lawyers — for a range of reasons. First, many clients are comfortable with women in their workplace and as allies in transactions. Second, the nature of the legal work handled by these firms does not prime gender frames in lawyer–client interactions. Third, the closed market for legal services offers another interactional advantage — retained and repeating clients.
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