Thursday, April 24, 2014
As a follow up to my blog post on Monday, "Do Women Professors Underperform" (http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/clinic_prof/2014/04/do-women-professors-underperform.html), I wanted to share a tweet I caught late last night from Karen Shook (@TimesHigherArts), the books editor for Times Higher Education: "I receive many confident emails from scholars recommending I cover their books. Some are novices, some are eminent. Almost none are women." Apparently, not only do we write and cite ourselves less, we also do not ask for reviewers to read our scholarly works. If we are uncomfortable because we view these acts as crass self promotion, I suggest that we form circles of support that include both men and women from within and outside our institutions and ask them to read our works and, if they like them, share and promote them with others. We know that women are generally better received when other people promote our work than when we promote our own, so as you are preparing for your summer writing, ask yourself, "Who comprises my circle of supporters?" If you don't have one, start building one. Just as importantly, ask yourself, "Whom can I support and promote?" And then build time into your schedule to do just that.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a vocation as "a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work." This definition of vocation implies a calling to a particular field of work, a devotion to a cause or occupation that is more than just a job - a vocation is something that is, by definition, imbued with meaning and a higher purpose.
I have always thought of my career in law in its various incarnations as a vocation. As a lawyer, counselor, activist, and teacher, the connection between my daily work and what I see as one of the main purposes of my life (the pursuit of social justice) has been rich. But like anything else, the law is a tool that can be used to accomplish various ends - or, as Charles Hamilton Houston famously reflected, "A lawyer is a either a social engineer or a parasite on society."
One of the reasons I wanted to not just become a law professor, but to become a clinician specifically, is because of my view of law as a vocation. It seems to me that our society, rightly or not, presents the "parasite" model of lawyering much more prominently than the "social engineer" model. While both models of lawyering are extreme, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, I think this false dichotomy of what it means to be a lawyer causes us to lose something much more subtle and valuable - the notion that law is an honorable profession, and that lawyering can and should be more than just a job.
I am also aware of the temptation in our society to both romanticize (John Grisham) and sensationalize (Law and Order) the practice of law. My reflection of law as vocation is meant to get at something a bit different. At its core, law is a healing profession. If law is a vocation, lawyers are not merely hired guns - we are problem solvers. Lawyers are counselors and advocates - we stand by and walk with our clients not just because the rules of professional conduct require us to, but because our vocation calls us to do so. This is what I have learned from my teachers, colleagues, and students over the course of my career, and is ultimately part of the vision of lawyering and legal education that I hope to contribute to.
Monday, April 21, 2014
“April is the cruellest month,” wrote T.S. Eliot, and he was not even a woman. This April has witnessed an especially heavy torrent of conflicting statistics, studies, articles, and posts on how to be a successful woman. As with parenting, everyone seems to be an expert. Not even women in the academy—the highest concentration of experts in the world—are spared.
Following the signing of President Obama’s executive orders highlighting that women in the U.S. continue to be paid just 77 cents for every dollar made by men (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/us/politics/obama-signs-measures-to-help-close-gender-gap-in-pay.html?_r=0), The Chronicle of Higher Education published a blog post arguing that the gender pay gap for men and women of equal rank at doctoral universities is far more narrow: 90 percent, 93 percent, 91 percent, 88 percent, and 96 percent, for full professors, associate professors, assistant professors, lecturers, and instructors, respectively (http://chronicle.com/blogs/data/2014/04/11/there-is-a-gender-pay-gap-in-academe-but-it-may-not-be-the-gap-that-matters/). Overall, however, academic women are paid an average of 78 cents on the dollar. How could that be?
The problem is representation. According to the analysis in The Chronicle, men outnumber women 3-to-1 at the full professor level, while women outnumber men 3-to-1 at the instructor level. The overrepresentation of women at lower ranks in the academy and underrepresentation of women in the higher ranks skews overall earnings of academics in an almost identical disparity as the national economy (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/opinion/the-truth-about-the-pay-gap.html).
Where do these disparities in representation come from? On the one hand, a recent article in The Atlantic reminds us that women today earn more college and graduate degrees than men do, so the issue isn’t competence (http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/). Instead, The Atlantic article blames the skewing at least partially on findings that men are more confident than women, and that women’s lower self-confidence holds women back professionally.
However, just last month another article, this one in The New York Times, warned that women who are overly confident may alienate others because they are not “sufficiently feminine,” and cited the story of an academic who was offered a position as a philosophy professor, but the offer was subsequently rescinded after she tried to negotiate a list of “nice-to-have” items that would “make [her] decision easier” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/your-money/moving-past-gender-barriers-to-negotiate-a-raise.html). Apparently, we have to be more confident, but not too confident.
“We are asking women to juggle while they are on a tightrope,” according to Professor Linda Babcock, founder of the gender equity program at Carnegie Mellon University. “The research could not be more clear in that we tolerate more aggressive or assertive behavior by men more than women.”
Professor Kelly Ward, who holds a chair in the College of Education at Washington State University and researches academic leadership, attributes the disparities in representation not just to discriminatory workplace practices, but also to women’s parenting choices and their focus on teaching and service over scholarship, which in turn can lead to being passed over for promotion to full professor. These “choices,” which alternatively or additionally could be framed as biological imperatives coupled with societal expectations, could lead to what The Chronicle identified in 2012 as a gender gap in scholarly publishing (http://chronicle.com/article/The-Hard-Numbers-Behind/135236/).
Women comprised just 24.5 percent of scholarly authors in the field of law from 1991 to 2010. The study concluded overall that “women do not publish scholarly articles at rates equal to their presence in most fields” (http://chronicle.com/article/New-Data-Show-Articles-by/143559/). Subsequent studies document that women’s academic articles are cited less frequently than those written primarily by men (http://chronicle.com/article/New-Data-Show-Articles-by/143559/), and men are far more likely to cite their own scholarship than women, which, in turn, leads to lower rates of citation for women scholars (http://chronicle.com/article/New-Gender-Gap-in-Scholarship/145311/).
So what does this labyrinthine of research mean for women professors? Are we less productive scholars than our male colleagues? Is our scholarship less relevant or lower quality? Do we suffer from the “Imposter Syndrome”? Are we paying the “Baby Penalty”? Are these findings a result of external values, biases, or restraints? Is it some combination of the above? Most importantly, now that we know about these disparities, what can we do to ensure that professors of both genders are able to fulfill their potential as scholars?