Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nashville Sexual Harassment Law Would Protect Contract Workers as well as Employees

Sexual Harassment in Nashville Spurs a New Bill to Extend Protections to Artists

Lawmakers in Nashville, the throne of country music, have been paying attention [to #MeToo]. A new piece of legislation, introduced into the Tennessee House of Representatives and Tennessee Senate by Rep. Brenda Gilmore and Sen. Jeff Yarbro in late January, proposes extending the state's sexual harassment protections to include not only employees of a given business, but contract workers as well. Many in Music City's homegrown industry — recording artists, session players, songwriters, producers and more — fall into the latter category.


"Right now, it's very hard for [recording artists] to argue that they are employees in terms of sexual harassment laws," attorney Alex Little, who represents country singer Katie Armiger, told journalist Marissa R. Moss in a recent Rolling Stone Country investigation into the sexual harassment and assault often experienced by female artists during their promotional tours of radio stations. "In Tennessee, there is no reason legislatively [here] that the state legislature or congress can't step in and protect artists in the same way that employees are protected."


Little's quote was published just 13 days prior to Rep. Gilmore's introduction, on Jan. 29, of the HB 1984 bill into the Tennessee House. Both bills amend the Tennessee Code in the same way, defining a contract worker as:

... a person who meets all of the following criteria: (A) The person has the right to control the performance of the contract for services and discretion as to the manner of performance; (B) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established business; and (C) The person has control over the time and place the work is performed, supplies the tools and instruments used in the work, and performs work that requires a particular skill not ordinarily used in the course of the employer's work.


"There's been significant reporting recently that shows that in some cases, female artists face a lot of predatory behavior just for trying to have their music heard," Sen. Yarbro writes in an email to NPR Music. "From what we've learned, if you're a female artist, harassment is something you learn to expect as you try to promote your work. That's unacceptable, and it's a problem we should try to solve.


"We know the music industry isn't a traditional workplace, so a lot of the ways we report harassment in traditional workplaces won't work. The legislation that Rep. Gilmore and I have proposed just makes it clear that everyone has a right to be safe in the workplace, regardless of whether their job fits the formalities of the current law."


Jennifer Shinall, an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville who specializes in employment law, tells NPR Music that the extension of "any kind of employment discrimination protection to something beyond the employment relationship, and to this contracting relationship is pretty groundbreaking--and it has the potential to be far-reaching."

February 28, 2018 in Equal Employment, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book Review: Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life

Kim Brooks, Justice for Equality, JOTWELL, reviewing Constance Backhouse, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life (2017).

Claire L’Heureux-Dubé was Canada’s second woman to join our Supreme Court of Canada. She was famous for her strong personality, her charm, her directness, and eventually her willingness to dissent. She was loved by some, loathed by others.

My opening paragraph so dramatically understates the significance of Justice L’Heureux- Dubé. It pretends that the life of one woman – a woman who faced substantial personal and professional challenges – can be adequately captured in a few words.

Enter Constance Backhouse’s brilliant biography. Biography is an art. How to render a person visible? To be appropriately honest about her failings and reflective about her successes? To situate her life within its broad context – social, political, economic, and scientific? To reflect her social character – her relationships and the effects of those relationships on the path of her life?

Backhouse’s considerable work answers these questions.

In over 700 meticulously researched pages, she takes us on a magnificent journey. ***

These opening twenty-eight chapters (in a book with thirty-eight chapters) are gorgeously written with specificity that leaves the reader feeling like she is standing right beside L’Heureux-Dubé as her life unfolds. That’s credit to Backhouse’s use of detail, her reliance on hundreds and hundreds of hours of interviews with L’Heureux-Dubé and those who know her, and her fierce analytical skill, which renders plain the subtle.

Unconventionally, but useful especially to the legally trained reader, the biography then looks carefully at six of Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s Supreme Court of Canada decisions – decisions she rendered on sexual assault, spousal support, human rights for same-sex couples, tax law, Quebec secession, and immigration. These decisions are presented as signature moments in Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s self-expression. Backhouse situates each decision in its broader social context. Each of these last six chapters has its own story to tell and each should be included in any course materials that include the underlying decision. Each is dazzling.

February 28, 2018 in Books, Courts, Judges, Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Theorizing Women's Economic Abuse in the Family

Arianne Renan Barzilay, Power in the Age of In/Equality: Economic Abuse, Masculinities, and the Long Road to Marriage Equality, 51 Akron Law Rev. 323 (2018)

In an era when women have achieved formal legal equality, patriarchal power endures. In this article I take on a largely neglected subject: economic abuse. While this phenomenon has recently begun to generate awareness as a form of intimate partner violence, it currently lacks a theory and history with which to deeply understand it. A failure to recognize the profound roots enabling economic abuse contributes to its perpetuation, trivialization, and marginalization in legal thought. Such a failure has broad implications for gender equality. This Article offers both a history and a theory with which to understand the phenomenon’s deep roots. It sheds light on the historical modification of coverture through familial and market-based breadwinning roles, and points to new insights from masculinities theory to explain how economic abuse is enabled. It illustrates how economic abuse is socio-legally made possible, demonstrating how it is embedded in a historical, socio-legal structure of the market and the family. It thus brings domestic violence gender-based analysis into a broader conversation about the law, the market, and the family. It contends that economic abuse is not merely an individual matter requiring individual-oriented solutions, but rather a social one, based on a particular, historically-based construction of relationships between gender, law, the market, and the family. More generally, it offers a way to think about power in the family in this new, seemingly more egalitarian era. It concludes by suggesting guiding principles for mitigating economic abuse and for destabilizing gendered power dynamics in the family more broadly.

February 27, 2018 in Family, Gender, Masculinities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal Legislation Introduced to Require Public Companies to Publicly Report Sexual Harassment

Elizabeth Warren Wants to Force Public Companies to Make Their Sexual Harassment Data Public

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen introduced legislationTuesday that would require public companies to publicly report allegations of sexual harassment and other types of harassment in the workplace.


The Democrats argue investors are entitled to know the specifics of harassment allegations — and any settlements public companies have made. The legislation, called the “Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act,” was first reviewed by BuzzFeed News before its introduction.


If passed, Warren and Rosen’s legislation would require public companies to annually report the number of settlements they entered related to sexual harassment and the total amount of money spent on them. It would also require reports on settlements made based on complaints related to race, religion, sex, gender identity, genetic information, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, service-member status, or age discrimination.


The bill would also require the companies to report the “average length of time” for an employer to resolve a complaint regarding sexual harassment. But the bill specifically prohibits the disclosure of the names of employees involved in the settlements.


“What the #MeToo movement has taught us is that we're not going to change the culture where this misconduct is brushed aside or openly tolerated in workplaces across America without more transparency on how these issues are being handled.” 

February 27, 2018 in Business, Legislation, Violence Against Women, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trying Campus Rape in a Court of Law

NYT, At Yale, Trying Campus Rape in a Court of Law

There is no log of how many campus rape cases go to trial each year, but experts and victim advocates agree that the number is vanishingly small. The Department of Justice estimates that between 4 percent and 20 percentof female college students who are raped report the attack to law enforcement. Of reported cases, only a fraction lead to arrests, let alone a trial.


The one at Yale, then, might seem like a perfect case to test the fiercely debated question of whether college rape accusations are best handled by internal university panels or by law enforcement.***


“This isn’t about which institution is better,” said Janet Halley, a Harvard Law School professor who has written about the legal implications of Title IX enforcement. “It’s about what happens when you put two institutions into the same process and they have different rationalities, different institutional cultures — but above all different rights attached to them.


“This is oil and water flowing in together.” ***


The debate around who should handle investigations seems unlikely to fade. Even as Ms. DeVos has permitted universities to more closely align their hearing processes with those the criminal justice system, she has also retained the requirement that schools investigate claims of sexual misconduct, rather than simply hand them off to law enforcement.

February 27, 2018 in Courts, Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 23, 2018

New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women have Experienced Sexual Harassment

NPR, New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment

Now an online survey launched in January by a nonprofit called Stop Street Harassment offers some of that missing evidence. It found that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime.


Those numbers are much larger than suggested by other recent polls. Those polls used a more limited sample or narrower definitions of harassment, says Anita Raj, director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego, who analyzed the results of the new survey.


The new survey, on the other hand, included a larger, more nationally representative sample of men and women ages 18 and above, says Raj.


The survey also involved a broader definition of sexual harassment that includes the "continuum of experiences" that women face, she says.


That includes verbal forms of sexual harassment, like being catcalled or whistled at or getting unwanted comments of a sexual nature. It also includes physical harassment, cyber harassment and sexual assaults.


The results, released in a report Wednesday, show that 77 percent of women had experienced verbal sexual harassment, and 51 percent had been sexually touched without their permission. About 41 percent said they had been sexually harassed online, and 27 percent said they had survived sexual assault.


The report also looked into locations where people experienced harassment. The majority of women — 66 percent — said they'd been sexually harassed in public spaces. "The public forums are where you see the more chronic experiences of sexual harassment," says Raj. These include verbal harassment and physical harassment, like touching and groping.


However, 38 percent of women said they experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. Thirty-five percent said they had experienced it at their residence. These experiences are more likely to be assaults and the "most severe forms" of harassment, says Raj.

February 23, 2018 in Pop Culture, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Balanced Approach to Gun Control in Domestic Violence

Carolyn Ramsey, Firearms in the Family, 78 Ohio St. L. J. 1257 (2017)


This Article considers firearms prohibitions for domestic violence offenders, in light of recent Supreme Court decisions and the larger, national debate about gun control. Unlike other scholarship in the area, it confronts the costs of ratcheting up the scope and enforcement of such firearms bans and argues that the politicization of safety has come at the expense of a sound approach to gun control in the context of intimate-partner abuse. In doing so, it expands scholarly arguments against mandatory, one-size-fits-all criminal justice responses to domestic violence in a direction that other critics have been reluctant to go, perhaps because of a reflexive, cultural distaste for firearms. 

Both sides in the gun-control debate rely on starkly contrasting, gendered images: the helpless female victim in need of state protection, including strictly enforced gun laws, and the self-defending woman of the National Rifle Association’s “Refuse to be a Victim” campaign. Neither of these images accurately describes the position of many domestic violence victims whose partners have guns, and neither image responds effectively to the heterogeneity of conduct leading to a protection order or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction that triggers federal and state firearms bans. The emphasis the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations place on a woman’s right to carry a firearm in self-defense ignores the most common homicide risks women face, as well as structural inequalities that contribute to gender violence. Yet, significant problems afflict an uncritically anti-gun approach, too. First, gun-control advocates tend to ignore the reality of intimate-partner abuse—a reality in which some women fight back; some family livelihoods depend on jobs for which firearms are required; not all misdemeanants become murderers; and victims have valid reasons for wanting to keep their partners out of prison. Second, to the extent that proponents of strict gun regulation also exhibit distaste for racialized crime-control policies, they fail to acknowledge that zealously enforced gun laws aimed at preventing domestic violence would put more people—including more men and women from vulnerable communities of color—behind bars. 

The current framing of the argument for tougher firearms laws for abusers is derived from public health research on domestic violence that makes a reduction in intimate homicide rates its chief goal. Yet, since hundreds of thousands of domestic violence misdemeanants are thought to possess illegal guns, reformers should also consider the potential costs to victims and their families of a move to sweeping and rigorous enforcement. Changes in gun laws and their implementation in the context of intimate-partner abuse ought to cure over- and under-breadth problems; provide greater autonomy to abuse victims and protections for those who resist their batterers; reconsider the lack of an exemption to the misdemeanor ban for firearms required on-duty; and include a better mechanism for restoring gun rights to misdemeanants who have shown the capacity to avoid reoffending.


February 23, 2018 in Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Norms Cascade of #MeToo and New Behaviors at Work

Joan Williams & Suzanne Lebsock, Now What?, Harv. Bus. Rev.

Farewell to the world where men can treat the workplace like a frat house or a pornography shoot


Not only is this better for women, but it’s better for most men. A workplace culture in which sexual harassment is rampant is often one that also shames men who refuse to participate. 


Still, it’s unnerving for many men to see the numbers of those toppled by accusations grow ever higher.


This is not a fight between men and women, however. . . To repeat: This is not a fight between men and women. It’s a fight over whether a small subgroup of predatory men should be allowed to interfere with people’s ability to show up and do what they signed up for: work.


The result of all these changes is what social scientists call a norms cascade: a series of long-term trends that produce a sudden shift in social mores. There’s no going back. The work environment now is much different from what it was a year ago. To put things plainly, if you sexually harass or assault a colleague, employee, boss, or business contact today, your job will be at risk.


What we’re seeing today is not the end of sex, or of seduction, or of la différence. What we’re seeing is the demise of a work culture where women must submit to being treated, insistently and incessantly, as sexual opportunities. Most people, when they go to work, want to work. And now they can.

February 23, 2018 in Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Exposing the Myths of Negotiating While Female

Andrea Kupfer Schneider, Negotiating While Female, 70 SMU L. Rev. (2017)

Why are women paid less than men? Prevailing ethos conveniently blames the woman and her alleged inability to negotiate. This article argues that blaming women for any lack of negotiation skills or efforts is inaccurate and that prevailing perceptions about women and negotiation are in-deed myths. The first myth is that women do not negotiate. While this is true in some lab studies and among younger women, more recent workplace data calls this platitude into question. The second myth is that women should avoid negotiations because of potential backlash. Although women in leadership do face an ongoing challenge to be likeable, it is clear that not negotiating has long-term detrimental effects. The third myth, based on the limited assumption that a good negotiator must be assertive, is that women cannot negotiate as well as men. However, the most effective negotiators are not just assertive, but also empathetic, flexible, socially intuitive, and ethical. Women can and do possess these negotiation skills. This article concludes by proposing an action plan which provides advice on how women can become more effective negotiators and identifies structural changes that might encourage negotiation and reduce the gender pay gap.

February 20, 2018 in Gender, Theory, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Controlling Women by Controlling Clothes in the Workplace

 Roxane Gay on Clothes in the Workplace: "I have never been good at dressing like a woman

Regulating how women dress, both in and out of the workplace, is nothing new. In ancient Greece, an appointed group of magistrates, gynaikonomoi, or “controllers of women”, ensured that women dressed “appropriately” and managed how much they spent on their apparel. The strict – and mandatory – codes were designed to remind women of their place in Greek society. In the ensuing millennia, not much has changed. Throughout history, men have controlled women’s bodies and their clothing by way of social strictures and laws.


Employers have long imposed dress codes on women in the workplace, demanding that women wear, for instance, high heels, stockings, makeup and dresses or skirts of an appropriate but feminine and alluring length. Employers have also mandated how women should wear their hair. Women of colour, and black women in particular, have faced discrimination in the workplace when they choose to wear their hair in natural styles or braids. Employers have also tried to constrain what women wear by discriminating against faith-based practices, barring, for example, Muslim women from wearing the hijab.***


I wear clothes that allow me to feel comfortable and confident. That is how I choose to dress like a woman. I have always been aware that the freedom to wear mostly what I want has been influenced, in large part, by the women who worked before me – women who, throughout history, refused to allow their ambitions to be constrained by narrow ideas of what it means to dress like a woman. Dress has evolved as the role of women in contemporary society has evolved. Sometimes, dressing like a woman means wearing a trousersuit; other times, it means wearing a wetsuit, or overalls, or a lab coat, or a police uniform. I wear clothes that allow me to feel comfortable and confident. That is how I choose to dress like a woman. I have always been aware that the freedom to wear mostly what I want has been influenced, in large part, by the women who worked before me – women who, throughout history, refused to allow their ambitions to be constrained by narrow ideas of what it means to dress like a woman. Dress has evolved as the role of women in contemporary society has evolved. Sometimes, dressing like a woman means wearing a trousersuit; other times, it means wearing a wetsuit, or overalls, or a lab coat, or a police uniform. Dressing like a woman means wearing anything a woman deems appropriate and necessary for getting her job done.

February 20, 2018 in Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Toxic Masculinity and Gun Control

Men and Guns: Are Masculinity and Firearms Inextricably Linked?

Data shows gun violence is disproportionately a male problem. Of the 97 mass shootings in which three or more victims died since 1982, only three were committed by women (one of those being the San Bernardino attack in which a man also participated), according to a database from the liberal-leaning news outlet Mother Jones. Men also accounted for 86% of gun deaths in the United States, according to an analysis by the non-partisan non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Men are less likely than women to seek mental health care for depression, substance abuse and stress, according to the American Psychological Association.
Men are forced to be tough and unemotional. It's an example of "toxic masculinity," the stereotypical and historically harmful definition of what it means to be a man.*
Men who think they're falling short of traditional gender norms are more likely to engage in "stereotypically masculine behaviors," like violence, according to a 2015 paper in the journal Injury Prevention. Likewise, when a man's masculinity and status is threatened, they express more support for war, male superiority and homophobic attitudes, summarized studies showed in the 2013 paper "Overdoing Gender: A Test of the Masculine Overcompensation Thesis," published in the American Journal of Sociology.
Carlson said that in her research, which focused on concealed carriers in the Detroit metro area, this has resulted in a shift in how men see their role in the family.
"What is a man's relevance in the home?" She asked. "One of the ways I saw it being reworked was by really embracing this protector role."
According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of gun owners say protection is a major reason they own a firearm, despite a 2016 review in the journal Epidemiologic Reviews of 130 studies that found firearm restrictions are associated with fewer deaths. And an analysis of Gallup polls from 2007 to 2012 found that marriage is a strong predictor of gun ownership.*
While protection is a major reason people say they own a gun, it isn't the only one. Some say they have guns for hunting. Others say they own guns because the Second Amendment says they can. Still others say guns are what keep them safe from a government that doesn't deserve their trust.
Saying that owning a gun "makes me a man" won't ever be listed among these reasons, but it's clear gun makers know that for many people, it subconsciously is.

February 20, 2018 in Manliness, Masculinities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gendered Relations of the Judges on the Brazilian Supreme Court and the Impact on Judicial Decisionmaking

Rafaela Carvalho, "They Don't Let Us Speak": Gender Relations and Judicial Decision-Making in the Brazilian Supreme Court

Supreme Courts are generally portrayed as institutions particularly well-positioned to defend and promote rights of minorities, including gender rights. However, gender discrimination often occurs within these institutions. Although existing empirical studies have largely focused on how the gender of the judge affects his or her decisions on the merits of the case, gender hierarchy and gender stereotypes can have an impact in other aspects of Court’s operation, such as in how judges relate to one another during deliberations. The paper aims to explore one facet of this phenomenon by looking at gendered relations judges in the Brazilian Supreme Court decision-making process. By examining a database containing all the court rulings debates between 2001 and 2013, we analyze the impact of gender in two dimensions of judicial behavior in a collegiate setting. More specifically, we test whether the gender of their colleagues affect how Brazilian Supreme Court Justices behaves when it comes to (i) dissenting from the case reporter's opinion; and (ii) asking for deliberations to be suspended, after the case reporter has spoken, in order to further study the arguments and case files. In all these dimensions, we expect the justices' confidence in the reporter's or the dissenter's knowledge or authority on the issues being discussed plays an important role, which makes them relevant to understanding the role of gender stereotypes. Our preliminary results point to gender biases in the Justices' attitudes towards female case reporters and female dissenters in at least one of these dimensions: when the case reporter is female, the other Justices are more likely to dissent. We interpret these results as suggesting that gender stereotypes -- for example, that women are less competent or reliable, and/or less likely or less able to retaliate -- might help us understand decision-making in the STF and in Brazilian courts more generally.

February 15, 2018 in International, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

UN Gender Network: Policy Proposal on Gender Equality and Parity

Rosa Freedman & Aoife O'Donoghue, United Nations Gender Network: United Nations Policy Proposal on Gender Equality and Parity

The UN Gender Network (UNGN) is rooted in both strengthening the UN’s leadership of gender equality and the empowerment of women working within the UN Secretariat, Funds, Programmes and Agencies. The UNGN believes that to enhance the UN’s leadership legitimacy in all areas but particularly regarding gender equality; to ensure the UN attracts the best talent from around the globe and to guarantee the UN fully represents ‘we the peoples’ significant change regarding gender equality amongst UN staff is required.

This policy paper places the women who work at the UN at its core. This policy looks at the history of women working at the Organisation, past attempts to strengthen their roles and looking to the future, suggests changes at the both the policy and practice levels to ensure that women working at the UN will be better served. This policy proposal aims to cause a significant shift in not just the numbers of women working at all levels at the UN but also their experiences within the workplace. The policy’s goal is to make the UN a better place for all staff to work and in doing so ensuring they can lead states in making their own workplaces into spaces where gender equality is without question a good.

February 15, 2018 in International, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Books: Sexual Intimacy and Gender Identity "Fraud"

Author Q&A: Sexual Intimacy and Gender Identity Fraud: Reframing the Legal and Ethical Debate,

Professor Alex Sharpe is a Law Professor at Keele University and a human rights barrister at Garden Court Chambers, London. She is a social and legal theorist, legal historian, and gender, sexuality & law scholar. 

She has been cited by the European Court of Human Rights as well as by a series of courts in domestic jurisdictions. She sits on the International Legal Committee of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health and has sat on Amnesty International’s Expert Committee on the Criminalisation of Sexual and Reproductive Conduct. 


 Q: What influenced you to write this book?

A:  In 2012, 17 year old Gemma Barker was convicted of sexual offences on the basis that she failed to disclose her gender identity to female complainants prior to sexual intimacies. She was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life. This was the second case of its kind in the UK. The first was prosecuted over 20 years earlier (R v Jennifer Saunders [1991] unrep). However, unlike the Saunders case, Barker proved to be the beginning of a disturbing pattern of successful prosecutions. In 2013, convictions were sustained against Chris Wilson in Edinburgh and Justine McNally in London. In 2015, Gayle Newland and Kyran Lee were convicted in Chester and Lincoln respectively, and in 2016, Jason Staines was convicted in Bristol. Most recently, in 2017, Gayle Newland was reconvicted in Manchester after the Court of Appeal found her original conviction unsafe and ordered a retrial.


Prior to Barker’s conviction, I had already been researching the legal requirement placed on transgender people to disclose their gender histories prior to marriage, lest the marriage be declared a nullity (see, for example, my article in the Modern Law Review (2012) 75(1) 33-53). With the Barker case, the stakes had suddenly been raised for transgender and other gender non-conforming people. I was shocked that these kinds of prosecutions were being brought and after the 2013 cases decided to write this book both as a critical analysis of the issues involved and as a political intervention. The book is resolutely against prosecution. 

February 15, 2018 in Books, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book Review "Scarlet A": More Talking and Less Shouting About Abortion, Ethics and Law

NYT, "Scarlet A" Wants Less Shouting About Abortion and More Talking, reviewing Katie Watson, Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion (Oxford Press 2018)

Certain issues have become so noisy and stigmatized that they seem to be all-consuming and invisible at once. Abortion is one of them, and Katie Watson wants to change how Americans talk about it — when, that is, they deign to truly talk about it at all.


Rates of abortion may be on the decline, largely because of long-term contraceptive use, but as Watson points out in “Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion,” the procedure is far from a fringe practice. Nearly one in five American pregnancies ends in abortion (a number that doesn’t include “spontaneous abortions,” the medical term for miscarriages). Nearly one in four American women will have an abortion in her lifetime.


Yet silence perpetuates a belief that abortion is atypical, even when the statistics say otherwise. The conversational void is then filled by advocates on both sides, who emphasize what Watson calls “extraordinary abortion.” Abortion rights activists highlight severe fetal abnormalities and pregnant 12-year-olds; anti-abortion activists highlight pregnancies that are terminated after viability. Such cases are all too real, but fixating on them distorts our understanding of what abortion ordinarily is....


Watson, a bioethicist at Northwestern’s medical school and a senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, comes to the debate with her own convictions. Forty-five years ago, with Roe v. Wade, “abortion was correctly identified as a constitutionally protected right, and it must remain legal,” she writes. “That’s not negotiable for me.” What she wants to do is engage directly with the fact that the majority of Americans, even those in favor of abortion’s legality, have deeply ambivalent feelings about abortion itself. “We should be able to acknowledge the complexity of private decision making,” she writes, “without threatening the right of private decision making.”

February 15, 2018 in Abortion, Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Male Speakers Vastly Outnumber Female Speakers in College Department Talks

On College Campuses, Male Speakers Vastly Outnumber Female Speakers, Report Finds

Top college campuses were far more likely to host male professors to speak in department talks than female professors, according to new research led by a Rice University graduate student.


The scholars tracked speakers at 3,652 talks in the 2013-14 academic year in biology, bioengineering, history, political science, psychology and sociology departments at top-ranked schools.


Nearly 70 percent of those talks were delivered by male professors, the research found, even as a random sampling of professors appeared equally motivated to deliver talks, regardless of gender. The authors also controlled for higher rates of men than women in higher education.


"Different preferences between men and women did not seem to be responsible for the gender discrepancy in colloquium talks," said Christine Nittrouer, a psychology graduate student at Rice who led the research, in a press release.


Talks were more likely to include a female speaker when a female chair organized the event, the research found.

February 14, 2018 in Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Women Law Deans

It's that time of year again... New Law Deans time.  I'll start tracking here the new women law deans appointed this cycle.

For last year's list and commentary on the trend to women law deans (sort of), see New Women Law School Deans 2017


Kerry Abrams (Vice Provost, Virginia), Duke Law 

Theresa Beiner (Associate Dean for Faculty Development, Arkansas-Little Rock), Arkansas-Little Rock

Wendy Hensel (Associate Dean for Research, Georgia State), Georgia State

Carla Pratt (Associate Dean for Diversity, Penn State Law), Washburn

L. Song Richardson (Interim Dean, Associate Academic Dean, Irvine), UC Irvine

February 14, 2018 in Law schools, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book: Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession

Book Review: Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession, by Elaine Craig

Dalhousie law professor Craig’s impeccably researched book, which analyzes how Canada’s criminal justice system contributes to the trauma of sexual assault victims, is an outstanding work that dovetails perfectly with the #MeToo movement. Working from interviews with legal professionals, analyses of problematic judicial decisions, and reproductions of stomach-turning trial transcripts, Craig (Troubling Sex) skewers the still prevalent notion that Canadian sexual assault survivors enjoy a free pass in the courts. By reproducing contemporary accounts of aggressive cross-examinations that “whack the complainant,” unsavory defense strategies intended to intimidate complainants into withdrawing their cases, and reliance on rape myths—revealing clothing, alcohol use, past sexual history—in criminal trials, Craig expertly makes the case that, despite progressive law reforms, the legal system remains predominantly unsafe for survivors. Combining academic rigor with an eminently readable style that is cohesive and fearless (prominent lawyers and judges are pointedly called to account), Craig makes several proposals—including improved education and training for all judicial system participants, public reporting of all decisions, and making courtroom culture less imposing—that would mitigate harm without impinging on the rights of the accused. This is a must-read title for judges, lawyers, politicians, courtroom staff, and anyone concerned about sexual violence.

February 14, 2018 in Books, Courts, International, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Older Women are the Future Economy

Alessandra Malito, Older Women will Soon Rule the World, MIT Professor Says

In his new book, “The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market,” (published by PublicAffairs) Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of the MIT Age Lab, a research program that studies the population 50 and older as well as the technology that impacts their lives, says the narrative on retirement needs a major update. Society puts so much emphasis on the years between birth and 65 years old, but life spans have lengthened over the last century to well into the 80s (and some say citizens of well developed countries can expect to live into the 100s) which means that Americans now may spend a third or more of their lives in retirement.


The catalyst won’t be the engineer or marketing person or someone doing advertisements on Madison Avenue, the future is distinctly female. She lives longer, she is the primary caregiver and the chief consumption officer of the home, so if she doesn’t buy it or envision it, she frankly won’t be living in it and the country and family is missing a big opportunity on what she knows and what she likes and what she will buy. We find the venture capital community ignoring women — we have a vision of innovation as a 27-year-old male wearing sneakers.

MarketWatch: Can you expand on “the future is female” comment? Women haven’t always been considered for such a role — why now?

Coughlin: They weren’t just marginalized — they were invisible. Female consumers today have more education in all fields except engineering, and that’s world wide. That makes her a dedicated researcher. Entrepreneurialism is a new women movement — women have startups employing Americans equal to large corporations. And while she is doing all that, she remains the caregiver, not just to her own children but to her parents. She’s influencing the majority of auto decisions, she understands what the needs and wants are in the population. Women are starting companies about downsizing services to clean up houses and services to provide care in homes — they see the problems and the opportunities.


MarketWatch: You had some tips for businesses looking to invest in the longevity economy — what are some?

Coughlin: With some irony, companies these days are very much liking to advertise that they are consumer-focused. But most companies ignore 51% of the population: the female population. To understand the aging marketplace, they need to look particularly at women 50 and older. The second thing is usable design does not have to be big, beige and boring — transcendent design is not just usable and functional, but genuinely delights the buyer. The third is to create new stories, new rituals, new myths — why don’t we have downsizing parties? Grandparent registries? If you think about it, business and society have all holidays and punctuation marks for 0-65 years old. After that you have a retirement party and everyone else’s parties. For one-third of your life, it’s not about you at all. And the last part is, if we are going to be living longer, we need to rewrite the way we think of retirement. Not just extending work span, but remaining engaged, productive. And frankly, most have a social network where we work, not where we live.

February 13, 2018 in Business, Family | Permalink | Comments (0)

Corporate Board Gender Diversity Measured by Power Rather than Numbers

Yaron Nili, Beyond the Numbers: Substantive Gender Diversity in Boardrooms

The push for gender diversity on public companies' boards has been gaining traction. Advocacy groups, institutional investors, regulators and companies themselves have all recognized the need for more diverse boards. However, gender parity is still absent from most public companies' boards, and a significant number of companies still have no women on their boards. 

Current public and academic discourse has focused on the number of women serving on the board and their percentage compared to men as the litmus test for gender diversity. However, academic studies and the public push for more diversity have mostly failed to account for another important measure of board gender diversity - the actual role and clout that female directors have within the boardroom. This is what the Article terms as substantive gender diversity. 

Substantive gender diversity matters. It is at the core of both the social cause and the business case for gender diversity on boards. This Article explores this substantive component of board gender diversity through empirical data relating to the role that men and women play on corporate boards. The Article finds statistically significant differences between the roles of female and male directors. Building on these findings, the Article asserts that regulators, investors and companies must focus not only on increasing the number of women on boards but also on ensuring that female directors enjoy similar parity once elected. The Article then proposes a shift towards a Substantive Gender Diversity Disclosure regime, which would measure and report the substantive aspect of gender diversity in boardrooms.

February 13, 2018 in Business, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)