Questions on the Status of Women Law Students

by Angela N. Johnson

After studying the status of female students at the University of Iowa Law School, where Jean C. Love is a professor, she identified twenty questions that would reveal the status of women law students at any given law school.  These questions can be used by administrators to identify areas that are lacking and prospective students concerned about gender discrimination or disparity.  When she utilized these questions to examine where women stood at her own school she found that:

  1. The qualifications of the entering female students were comparable to those of the entering male students;
  2. The grade point averages of the female students at the end of their first year were comparable to those of the male students; [1]
  3. The grade point averages of the female students at the end of their third year were comparable to those of the male students;[2]
  4. Women were selected for membership in The Order of the Coif in proportion to their representation in the class;
  5. The percentage of male and female students who participated in law school activities were comparable; [3]
  6. The percentage of male and female students who received faculty-chosen honors upon graduation were comparable. 

The “Twenty Questions” are as follows:

“Hard Data” Regarding Status of Women Students

1. What are the “statistical” qualifications of the entering class?

a. What is the median and what is the mean LSAT for all students? for women? for men?

b. What is the median and what is the mean UGPA for all students? for women? for men?

c. What is the median and what is the mean “index” score (combination of LSAT score and UGPA) for all students? for women? for men?

2. What is the GPA of law school students in the entering class at the end of the first year?

a. What is the median LGPA for all students? for women? for men?

b. What is the mean LGPA for all students? for women? for men?

3. What is the GPA of law school students in the entering class at the end of the third year?

a. What is the median LGPA for all students? for women? for men?

b. What is the mean LGPA for all students? for women? for men?

4. How do women perform academically in law school?

a. What is the percentage of women in the graduating class?

b. What is the percentage of women in the top 50% of the graduating class?

c. What is the percentage of women in the top 10% of the graduating class?

d. What is the percentage of women who received faculty-chosen honors upon graduation?

e. What is the percentage of women in the graduating class who participated as members (and as editors) in law review (and law journal) activities?

f. What is the percentage of women in the graduating class who participated as advocates (and who were finalists)

(and who were student judges) in moot court activities?

g. What is the percentage of women in the graduating class who participated in any other academic activity that is important at your school?

 “Soft Data” Regarding Status of Women Students

5. Do you want to conduct a survey of students’ aspirations and attitudes? If so, you might wish to inquire about a student’s:

a. Goals and aspirations upon entering law school (and upon graduation).

b. Level of voluntary participation in large (and small) classes.

c. Level of interaction with professors inside (and outside) the classroom.

d. Level of satisfaction with law school in the first (and second) (and third) year(s).

e. Level of anxiety (alienation) (depression) in the first (and second) (and third) year(s) of law school.

f. Perceptions regarding the law school environment with regard to gender bias.

6. Do you want to conduct an open forum to give students an opportunity to discuss the “hard data” that you have collected and to raise issues of concern to students regarding the status of women at your law school?

Data Regarding Educational Environment

7. What is the history of women students at your law school?

a. Who was the first woman student admitted to your law school? When was she admitted?

b. What was the percentage of women in the student body in the 1960s? 1970s? 1980s? 1990s?

c. How did the women students perform academically in the 1960s? 1970s? 1980s? 1990s?

8. What is the history of women professors at your law school?

a. Who was the first woman to be hired in a tenure-track position? When was she hired?

b. Who was the first woman to be tenured at your institution? When was she tenured? Have any women experienced difficulty during the tenure process?

c. What was the percentage of women in tenure-track positions on your faculty in the 1960s? 1970s? 1980s? 1990s?

9. What is the history of women administrators at your law school?

a. Has your school ever hired a woman to be the Dean of the law school? If so, who was the first female Dean?  When was she hired? Have other women been hired subsequently to serve as Dean?

b. Has your school ever hired a woman to be the Associate Dean of the law school? If so, who was the first female Associate Dean? When was she hired? Have other women been hired subsequently to fill the position?

c. Has your school ever hired a woman to be the Assistant Dean? If so, who was the first female Assistant Dean? When was she hired? Have other women been hired subsequently to fill the position?

10. What is the current level of participation by women in your law school?

a. What is the percentage of women in your student body?

b. What is the percentage of women on your tenured and tenure-track faculty?

c. What is the percentage of women in your law school’s administration?

d. What is the percentage of women who are Chairs of Standing Committees (or of other important committees)?

11. How diverse is your student body? your faculty? your administration? Is your school’s diversity reflected in the portraits hanging on the walls?

12. Do you have an orientation program for first-year students? Do the professors who teach during the orientation program reflect the diversity of your faculty? Do you talk about the type of environment that your law school seeks to nurture?

13. What percentage of the professors who teach first year students are women? Do the professors who teach first year students reflect the diversity of the faculty?

14. Does your school offer an opportunity for students to take one first year class in a small section during the fall semester? spring semester? Does your school offer a wide variety of teaching styles and educational opportunities in the first year? second year? third year? Are your “large” classes composed of 50 students? 75 students? 100 students or more?

15. Does your school grade anonymously? Does your school offer support for students who want to improve their academic performance? Who want to compete for an opportunity to participate?

17. Does your school have its own nondiscrimination policy? Sexual harassment policy? Consensual relations policy? How are these policies disseminated and enforced?

18. Does your school support parents with children? What type of support is available for students? For faculty? For staff?

19. Do your female students have job opportunities comparable to your male students? For example, are women hired as judicial clerks in percentages comparable to the percentage of women who graduated (or who graduated in the top 10% of the class)?

20. Does your school involve its women graduates in the life of the law school?

While I found these questions very helpful in prompting ideas of what impacts the law school experience for women students, I fear answers to these questions may be hard to find and burdensome to locate.  In which case, these questions are likely more helpful to administers who have access to internal data (provided they do collect and organize such data) than to a concerned law student (or prospective law student).


[1] See “A Forked River Runs Through Law School” which reveals that nation-wide women 1L grades are inferior to male students but that women graduate with higher GPAs.

[2] Id.

[3] See the 2010 Law School Student Engagement Survey which indicates nation-wide, women participate in activities less than their male classmates.

Source Citation: Love, Jean C. “Twenty Questions on the Status of Women Students in Your Law School.” Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal, no. Summer (1997): 405-415.

Advertisements
Tags:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: