When Sarah was single and dating, she faced a lot of disappointments once men discovered she was a lawyer. “Guys have messaged me on Tinder to ask how dominating I am,” says the 25-year-old associate in Toronto, who asked that we not use her real name. “I think they assume that all lawyers are aggressive Type As.”
Not surprisingly, Sarah stopped mentioning her profession on dating profiles or when she first met men. It was partly to prevent creepy comments, but she was also acting on advice she had received from colleagues.
When she was an articling student, female associates told her it would be hard to date anyone who wasn’t a professional or who made less money than she did. “At first I was like, C’mon!” she recalls. “Nobody thinks like that anymore. It’s not 1950.”
When asked, most straight men say they want an equal partner. In one well-known study, men were asked to rate a theoretical woman who is very smart. Their initial response is: “Great! I would really love to have that woman as a partner.” But then those same men were introduced to real-life women whom they were told scored higher than they did on an intelligence test. And, this time, they rate them as having lower partner potential.
“It’s such a trope of masculinity,” says Jenna Birch, the author of The Love Gap, a new book that dives into the psychological data behind the eternal question of why accomplished women struggle to find appropriate partners (Sex and the City, RIP). “Men still feel — subconsciously or otherwise — that they’re supposed to be the provider. So when a woman is very successful, it makes them question themselves. It’s that little ding in the masculinity armour.”
Male perceptions of female lawyers affect more than the casual dating game. They also have an impact on long-term relationships. Jennifer, a third-year associate at a large Bay Street firm, once dated a man who kept track of how many hours she worked. After four months, he ended the relationship: he just couldn’t see how she would be able to have children. “It was so weird,” says the 36-year-old, who also spoke on the condition that we not publish her real name. “I’m pretty sure there are women on Bay Street having babies all the time.” (The best part? He was also a lawyer.)
Jennifer thinks female lawyers have an additional dating cross to bear in comparison to other professional women. “I have friends who are doctors and they don’t get it the same way we do,” she says. “The root of medicine is still caring — a stereotypically female role — whereas the stereotype of lawyers is that we’re all sharks, a stereotypically male persona.”
The good news is that, according to Birch — and Sarah and Jennifer, who are both in relationships now — it is possible to find the right man, one who’s confident enough that he won’t be intimidated by his partner’s career. “One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a senior practitioner is, ‘You’ve got to find a partner that’s going to be your 50/50,’” says Sarah. “She told me, ‘I can only do what I do because my partner is in it with me.’ That really stuck with me through all those idiots I have met over the years.”
This story is from our Winter 2018 Issue.
Illustration by Katie Carey