Archive for ‘Women in Legal Academia’

March 17, 2011

An Invisible Gender Divide on Law School Faculties

by Angela N. Johnson

According to McGinley, author of “Reproducing Gender on Law School Faculties, ” an invisible gender divide exists on law school faculties; not only are women in the minority of law school faculties, they also teach a disproportionate number of female-identified courses. Moreover, “Choice” is not the cause of the disparity between men and women law professors. McGinley argues that women will attain equal status on law school faculties only after hidden gendered practices are made visible. 

“From academic year 1998-99 to academic year 2007-08, the percentage of women law school deans rose from 10.4% to 19.8%.  Their proportion of full professors grew from 20% to 29.3% of the population.  Unfortunately, however, women represent 61.3% of lecturers and 65.4% of instructors.  In contrast, men represent the vast majority of high-paying and high-prestige positions, 80.2% of deans, 70.7% of full professors, but a minority of low-paying and low-prestige positions, 38.7% of lecturers and 34.6% of instructors” (McGinley 2009, 102-103).  Though women law graduates are continuing to increase in proportion to male graduates, McGinley points to Vicki Schultz’s study indicating that “choice” of employment is shaped by the work environment and that women react to opportunities and conditions at work to determine what type of work they desire in the first place.  In other words, women may be more interested in traditionally male-dominated jobs if they conditions were made attractive to do so (McGinley 2009, 103).  Statistics show that women have a disincentive in choosing legal academia as a career choice because they are more likely to earn lower-pay and teach less prestigious courses. This disparity in legal academia mirrors higher education disciplines as well.  For example, “women predominate in institutions with less status and pay like community colleges and in jobs that are either part-time or not on the tenure track” (McGinley 2009, 104, citing Judith Glazer-Raymo, The Feminist Agenda: A Work in Progress, in Unfinished Agendas: New and Continuing Gender Challenges in Higher Education 1, 5-9 (Judith Glazer-Raymo ed., 2008)).

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March 16, 2011

Reducing the “Becoming Gentlemen” Affect by Increasing Female Law Faculty

by Angela N. Johnson

Carlson’s review of Lanie Guinier’s  “Becoming Gentlemen” argues that the alienation of women and minors continues in law school and that institutions must focus on institutional acceptance and absorption of diversity in place of the imposition of a “one-size-fits-all” mentality (Carlson 1998, 317).  Additionally, Guinnier’s “latest work provides a timely contribution to the defense of affirmative action policies in law school faculty hiring decisions” (Carlson 1998, 318). However, Carlson’s review of “Becoming Gentlemen” “concludes that while Guinier’s findings are valauble, law schools need to first focus on providing women with equal access to desirable faculty positions before her recommendations can become a meaningful reality” (Carlson 1998, 318).

Hypothesis: In order for women law students to achieve equal experiences in law school, law schools must increases the proportion of women faculty because they will serve as mentors to women law students. To do this, affirmative action programs which have recently come under attack, must be defended.

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January 5, 2011

Women Law Students Equal in Number, Not in Experience

by Angela N. Johnson

Sari Bashi and Maryana Iskander say that legal education is failing women (according to their 2006 study).  This, by far, is the best work I’ve read to date. 

“Law school professors treat women differently from men, and as institutions, law schools cultivate and reward patterns of behavior that are more likely to be found among men than among women, even though these behaviors do not necessarily reflect the skills students need to be good lawyers, judges, and legal academics” (Bashi and Iskander 389). More specifically, the study revealed that male faculty members are less likely to push or challenge women’s ideas and integrate female students into class discussions.  This disengagement creates a disparate learning environment for women.  Not only does this translate to a disadvantage for women in the law school setting but this can hinder women’s success in the legal profession beyond graduation because “relationships with law school faculty members provide students with information, guidance, encouragement, mentoring, and professional credentials and contacts” (Bashi and Iskander 389). According to Bashi and Iskander, the inadvertent prejudiced against women can be lessened if “law schools reconsider what values they cultivate and reward” which will “provide a better education for women and men alike” (Bashi and Iskander 389). While it is true that women comprise close to half of incoming law school classes (and have since 2001), the authors argue that if women are to truly realize equality in the legal profession, they must become fully integrated into the law school experience.  At no point in their article do the authors make any accusation of intentional discrimination. Rather, there is an inherent occurrence of discrimination based on the way female students are treated (women are challenged less frequently in classroom settings). Further, the authors acknowledge that making changes to the law school experience is not the only barrier keeping women from fully integrating into the legal profession.  Rather, absent such transformation, full integration is unlikely to take place.

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