Be a sport?: connecting past participation in sport and gender inequality in Australia's largest corporate law firms
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 02:42 authored by Jodie Skellern
Explaining the persistence of gender inequality in large corporate law firms, by focusing on women's domestic roles, has not produced significant change. I consider this puzzle by studying the under-representation of early-career female lawyers in the pipeline that produces partners in a large Australian corporate law firm. A mixed-methods research design, and a theoretical framework developed by appropriating Pierre Bourdieu's theory and analytical tools, are used to investigate how power transfers between fields: from the hegemonically masculine field of sport as a source of knowledge - to the economic domain of a large corporate law firm as a workplace. I take sport to be a central source for developing transferable soft skills for the workplace. Further, I claim that the gendered experience of sport, in Australia, results in different capacities to acquire and practise such skills, better enabling accelerated career trajectories for early-career male lawyers. Neither gender diversity nor social justice will be achieved by encouraging women to participate in sport on male terms. Instead, I conclude there is greater economic and social value to be gained by changing the decision-making practices, and the valuation of social and cultural capital, within large corporate law firms. Specifically, a lazy or convenient decision-making process, that risks confusing talent with visibility, should be replaced.