The Cost of a Vowel: How the Gender-marked Job Title Affects Ratings of Female Lawyers

Through a vignette study in Italian, we show that using the feminine job title negatively impacts how female lawyers are perceived by other professionals. 227 respondents were presented with hypothetical legal issues and shown several realistic profiles of male and female lawyers, with varying professional characteristics, and then asked to indicate how likely they would be to contact each of the given profiles for assistance with the legal issue. We randomly varied whether all the profiles of female lawyers for a given respondent were presented with the predominantly used masculine term – avvocato – or with the feminine term – avvocata. We find that, ceteris paribus, female profiles with the feminine term get lower scores by 0.36 (out of 10, -5%, -0.16SD). The downgrade is stronger among women respondents. The magnitude of the effect is large relative to the effect of other characteristics varied randomly in the profiles, such as work experience or other quality signals.



Publication number: Working Paper 2023-06
Date: 10/2023
JEL Classification: J16, C93, J44
  • gender language, gender markedness, job titles, vignette study
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