Structure, agency and the career strategies of women and BME individuals in the legal profession

Tomlinson, Jennifer, Muzio, Daniel, Sommerlad, Hilary, Webley, Lisa and Duff, Liz (2013) Structure, agency and the career strategies of women and BME individuals in the legal profession. Human Relations, 66 (2). pp. 245-269. ISSN 0018-7267

Full text not available from this repository.
Official URL:


The legal profession in England and Wales is becoming more diverse. However, while white women and black and minority ethnic (BME) individuals now enter the profession in larger numbers, inequalities remain. This article explores the career strategies of 68 white women and BME legal professionals to understand more about their experiences in the profession. Archer’s work on structure and agency informs the analysis, as does Emirbayer and Mische’s (1998) ‘temporally embedded’ conceptualization of agency as having past, current and future elements. We identify six career strategies, which relate to different career points. They are assimilation, compromise, playing the game, reforming the system, location/relocation and withdrawal. We find that five of the six strategies tend to reproduce rather than transform opportunity structures in the legal profession. The overall picture is one of structural reproduction (rather than transformation) of traditional organizational structure and practice. The theoretical frame and empirical data analysis presented in this article accounts for the rarity of structural reform and goes some way towards explaining why, even in contexts populated by highly skilled, knowledgeable agents and where organizations appear committed to equal opportunities, old opportunity structures and inequalities often endure.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: University of Westminster > Westminster Law School
SWORD Depositor:
Depositing User:
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2013 13:06
Last Modified: 06 May 2015 09:33

Actions (login required)

Edit Item (Repository staff only) Edit Item (Repository staff only)