Tuesday, March 13, 2018
#MeToo in the Legal Profession
Anita Hill testifying at the confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas was one of the events that shaped my life as a lawyer, a feminist, and a human being. As the country watched this intelligent, competent black woman give her testimony, I saw what it meant to speak truth to power. I understood that power would not pin laurels on you for bravery, but would instead denigrate you and spit on you and tell you to your face that your experience was a lie. I learned that action requires much more than bravery, it requires sacrifice.
I also understood, when Clarence Thomas responded that the proceedings had descended into a high-tech lynching just how heavy weight of intersectional oppression is, and how it is always deployed in the service of protecting power. What white supremacy cannot accomplish, patriarchy will.
At that time, as a young waitress, I had endured my own ration of sexual harassment. But it wasn’t until much later, until I graduated from law school and started to make my way as a young lawyer and experienced a few very sketchy, borderline moments that I think I grasped the depths of what Anita Hill was up against.
Lawyers expect our profession to provide us with a kind of shield. We are powerful, privileged people, even if we are also female or gay or a person of color or all or none of the above. Our identity as a member of the bar provides us with the ability move freely in the halls of power….until we are harassed by someone even more powerful.
The harassers within the legal profession are among the most powerful people on the planet—bar none. When you’re harassed as a lawyer, it’s often by a judge, a legislator, the partner of your firm, the CEO of the company or the big client. A person with unparalleled resources, cultural capital to burn, and ability to use the law as both a shield and a cudgel against you.
We operate in a profession where confidentiality and discretion are paramount, refusing assignments is difficult, and our reputations are our currency. Harassers use and abuse the ethical and social conventions of our profession to prevent victims from speaking out and speaking up. The result? Persistent gender-based inequality among lawyers that seems to have no discernable cause.
Much of the conversation around #MeToo starts to bleed—quite rightly in some cases—into conversation about crimes, about assault, and about a culture of violence. But sexual harassment is also fundamentally an economic issue, one that warps our profession. The cost is not just to the victims, who must figure out how to earn a living, despite the hostile environment they’re operating in. The cost is to all of us. How many of us have not applied for a job, or turned down a plum assignment because taking it would have put us into close contact with someone who either the whisper network or gut instinct said would not be safe? Avoiding sexual harassment shapes our choices, delimiting our options. The language of choice (“You chose to turn down the assignment”; “You choose the less prestigious clerkship”) masks a sick, systemic tolerance for discriminatory behavior. It’s not a leak in the pipeline, it’s the gaping hole.
The #MeToo moment is an opportunity for change, not just in the general law, but in lawyers. There are specific and concrete steps that we can take now to make our workplaces exactly that—places where we work. Where we represent our clients, or draft legislation, or decide cases. Not places where we have to think about our basic safety and security.
In February, a group of us came together to discuss concrete steps for change at #MeToo: Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Workplace (February 19, 2018, American University Washington College of Law), sponsored by the Women and the Law Program at AU. I was inspired by these women and daunted by the amount of work to be done, starting with:
- Llezlie Green Coleman’s call to rethink the use of non-disclosure, confidentiality, and binding arbitration agreements in employment litigation;
- Cara Greene’s assessment that ethical obligations with teeth are needed to reinforce that our profession will not tolerate sexual harassment in any form; and
- Emily Martin’s reminder that of the need for federal legislation to create humane and effective procedures for reporting sexual harassment on the Hill, as well as her call to get involved with Time’sUp.
We also need to lead the change in our own workplaces. Because of the immense cultural and political power wielded by harassers in the legal profession, we have to pay special attention to the even wider power differential for those who work with us, but who are not also lawyers. Court reporters, paralegals, administrative assistants, law clerks, interns, interpreters, bailiffs, correctional officers. If a harasser is willing to risk harassing someone who is in any other context not afraid to sue your ass, how much more complicated is it for someone without our professional badges and power suits to shield them? We, as lawyers, have an especial obligation to the people we work with—to listen and watch and ask and to believe them when they tell us that something is making them uncomfortable—or worse. Because of the power we possess, ours is a heightened obligation to not be complicit.
In the wake of #MeToo, I’ve thought often of Anita Hill and the lessons her experience etched on us. I’m looking for ways to repay the immense debt that I, at least, owe her for speaking out when doing so meant that she walked alone. Working to end harassment in the legal profession—the context in which Clarence Thomas harassed Anita Hill, and the context in which Anita Hill fought back--is the right place to begin.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Guardian, The Cult of Mary Beard
I've found myself a part of the cult of Mary Beard, impressed by her model of how to be a professor.
Everyone who has met Beard seems to have a story about encountering her for the first time – usually involving her rigorous intellect, her total lack of formality, and her sense of mischief.
In public, in private and in her academic writing she is skeptical, wary of consensus, the kind of person who will turn any question back on itself and examine it from an unexpected angle. She is not afraid to take apart her own work:
The learned but approachable figure you see on TV translating Latin inscriptions, carving up a pizza to explain the division of the Roman empire, or arguing about public services on Question Time, is precisely the Beard you encounter in private, except that in real life, she swears magnificently and often.
Beard is a celebrity, a national treasure, and easily the world’s most famous classicist. Her latest book, Women and Power, about the long history of the silencing of female voices, was a Christmas bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. In the eight years since her debut TV documentary, Pompeii, she has conquered the small screen. She is one of a trio of presenters who will, in March, front Civilisations – a new, big-budget version of Kenneth Clark’s 1969 series Civilisation, the most revered cultural TV series in the BBC’s history.
As recently as a decade ago, it would have seemed unlikely, even outlandish, that a middle-aged classics don, her appearance a million miles away from the groomed perfection expected of women in the public sphere, would end up so famous and, by and large, so loved.
Since then, Beard has become a standard-bearer for middle-aged women, and beloved by the young – indeed, by anyone who wants to be seen in terms of their ideas, not their looks; anyone who think it’s cool to be smart; and by those who relentlessly ask questions and never reject a contrary opinion out of hand. Beard’s intellectual style, which suffuses all her scholarship – a commitment to rigorous scepticism that refuses to be cynical – has made her a model for those who worry that the shouting and bullying of the digital world make reasoned political debate impossible.
Her career stands, in a way, as a corrective to the notion that life runs a smooth, logical path. “It’s a lesson to all of those guys – some of whom are my mates,” she said, remembering the colleagues who once whispered that she had squandered her talent. “I now think: ‘Up yours. Up yours, actually.’ Because people’s careers go in very different trajectories and at very different speeds. Some people get lapped after an early sprint.” She added softly, with a wicked grin: “I know who you are, boys.”
Beard describes herself as academically “flighty”. Instead of burrowing into one small area – a single Latin author, for example, or Roman religion in a given period – she has darted between topics; and, perhaps because of her gregarious nature, has preferred those topics not to be especially obscure. ...This eclecticism has given her the means to range widely through the ancient world in her public work. So has the fact that her scholarship has been relatively mainstream, rather than at the bleeding edge of academic fashion.
Her full story is well worth the read.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
From Guest Blogger Catherine Dunham, Professor of Law, Elon University School of Law
Too Pretty: An Essay
The #MeToo moment is powerful and encouraging to those of us who have worked in uncomfortable environments for years. In my high school years, there were retail managers who made up reasons to brush behind you as you ran the cash register. Then, there were the college food service job years which included outright sexual propositions from same age colleagues and groping opportunities disguised as rides home (“let me reach across and get that door for you.”). Fast forward to my first professional environment with new shoes and proper clothes. I was asked to pick things up, to walk across the room, to sit with older male clients and keep them company as they waited for my boss. I knew it was creepy but I perceived myself as someone without power. Also, the men were much older and seemed harmless. To me, they were sad and unthreatening but, in retrospect, they probably saw themselves as first rate opportunities for a young gal like me. I spent eight post college years in subordinate professional roles and literally lost count of the times I was propositioned and of the men who made the overtures. At one particularly low point, a supervisor who positioned himself as my mentor, some 20 years my senior, made a full-scale play for me after months of uncomfortable flirting. The encounter ended with me saying, “please don’t do this – I need this job.” Thank goodness, he relented. I left that encounter thinking I need to get into a better professional position so as not be treated like the Gal Friday, possibly available for anything, for the rest of my career. So, I went to Law School. Certainly, after I became a lawyer, this would stop.
Law school was an oasis in my professional story. I had great male and female student colleagues and felt respected for my intellect and hard work. This calm faded as I entered the profession, particularly private practice where I was called upon for coffee runs in depositions when I was the only women in the room. I was mistaken for a paralegal, a court reporter, a clerk, with one time reprimanded by an out-of-county lawyer who demanded I remain behind the bar as the counsel tables were available only for licensed attorneys. I was called “honey,” “sweetie,” and “girl” by a person on every rung of the legal professional ladder. There were also appearance-based comments by judges and jurors and the occasional “you are just too pretty to be a lawyer.” For the record, I am not that pretty. I was simply female and young and offered an alternative version of what lawyers in my rural practice area were supposed to look like. But because I was a young woman, comments on my physical appearance were to be considered compliments.
I learned to manage this terrain. I refused coffee runs, openly chastised lawyers who called me “honey,” and responded to the “too pretty” comments with a good Southern comeback like, “thank you – you are much too old to be looking at women my age.” In fact, my small firm which was all male sans me remains the most gender balanced environment I have ever worked in. My male superiors were excellent trial lawyers who valued hard work and intelligence without a care about how you looked, who you slept with, and whether you had a life outside of the office. If you did well, you were celebrated. If you screwed up, you heard about it and received some direction to keep you from making the same mistake again. The firm environment was fair, which made up for the constant inequities of the rural southern courts where I practiced. Even so, those years were the time in my life when I was most often a woman among men and I got a glimpse of the ease the permeates a non-diverse world. The language was not modern but it was not all menacing. I had grown up with good people who used old-fashioned language to discuss women so learned not to be too quick to judge a gendered, albeit gracious, phrase.
I expected the switch to legal academia to expose me to the Holy Grail of gender equality. Law professors were progressive and would create and propagate fair and balanced environments. Wrong. Twenty years after that first brush up behind the cash register, I was still deciding how to deal with a creep. The only difference was the creep’s tactics. Law academia has included being told by a Dean that I should “just go home, take care of my kids, and let my husband pay the bills.” Another Dean promised to “take care of me” if I followed his lead on voting and retaliated when I did not. And I once had a student tell me he could not attend my class because it was against his personal beliefs for a man to learn from a woman. I have seen women colleagues painted as “shrill,” “passive,” “too aggressive,” “brash,” and just overall not good enough to play in the big leagues of real law teaching. I have sat in meetings trying to convince male colleagues that when viewing the teaching evaluations of women (and minority) faculty, particularly those who teach in predominantly male, white schools, you must account for the power differences, understanding that minority teachers do not get the benefit of the doubt. And I have watched male colleagues protect their territory against female interlopers by appointing themselves the junior female colleague’s unofficial mentor then using that access to offer an ostensibly credible assessment of the junior faculty member to the rest of the faculty. “I have really worked with her but she just isn’t getting there.” On this point, I have seen male colleagues praised for protecting the quality of instruction and women colleagues criticized for being territorial. Territorial men are protectors and providers. Territorial women are like my border collie when the repairman comes; a nasty bitch.
Why do we accept that women will deal with a certain amount of skirt chasing and “boys will be boys” behavior in the workplace? Because we view men as more and view women as less. Our cultural views come through in our language, public and private, whether we know it or not. For a woman of my age, raised in the culture of the American South, language was a complicated mix of the sweet and the cruel which offered few guiderails for my journey into professional adulthood. It took years for me to begin to challenge the words used to describe me and other women and the subtext beneath the conscious word choices of my peers. I must admit that when I was first told I was too pretty for something, it read as a compliment. It took time for me to understand that words which celebrated physical attractiveness when those traits are not relevant are words that diminish.
I have lovely memories of my Great Uncle holding my hand and telling me I looked like Snow White. However, a father, grandfather, or uncle could show the same affection with other words, words which do not connect physical appearance with value thus confounding those two things in a way that confuses young women on their personal value. In truth, members of my own family told me I was too pretty to be a lawyer, telegraphing the cultural assumption that attractive women can get husbands so don’t need careers. These messages sent me off into the world confused about my value and my role. When our cultural rhetoric focuses on the physical attributes of women, we devalue women and invite the aggressors. And we are all too pretty for that.
Catherine Dunham is a Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law where she teaches Civil Procedure, Civil Litigation, and Litigation Skills including Trial Practice. She has also served as a trial analyst for several major news outlets, including NBC and CNN. In addition to procedural topics, Prof. Dunham’s scholarship explores social psychology and legal education, as well as topics related to gender equity and unconscious bias. Prof. Dunham is also prior recipient of the ABA Smyth-Gambrell Award for Teaching Professionalism.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
LaTonya J. Trotter, Making a Career: Reproducing Gender Within a Predominantly Female Profession, Gender & Society
In my Gender & Society article, I explore the career biographies of NPs and NP students in order to understand the role of nursing’s institutional arrangements in women’s labor market decisions. I focus on NPs because they are a highly educated subgroup of nurses that have cleared a series of credentialing hurdles to order to make careers. In some ways, nursing is a shining example of how flexible arrangements not only help workers manage family commitments but actively encourage career aspirations. Nursing’s flexibility begins with education. Nursing is one of the few professions that make it possible to accrue educational credentials in cohesive fragments. Forty-one-year-old Hana described a fifteen-year trajectory that started with a two-year community college degree. That was enough to begin working as a registered nurse (RN). A few years later, Hana enrolled in a structured bridge program that allowed her to leverage her two-year degree towards completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Moreover, the bridge program enabled her to pursue her bachelor’s part-time while working as a full-time nurse. Ten years later, Hana took advantage of similar accommodations to complete her master’s degree to practice as an NP. “I call myself a kind of Cinderella story,” she told me. “I came up from community college all the way up to the Ivy League.”
Nursing’s flexibility facilitated motherhood as well as social mobility. Women entering high status professions often delay childbearing. The demands of advanced schooling and early career leave little room for parenting. The ability to build a career over a longer time horizon meant that motherhood might change the rhythm of a career, but it did not stop it. A similar level of flexibility was mirrored in nursing work. Hospital nursing’s reliance on 12-hour shifts over 3 days gives full-time workers more days at home to spend with children. For NPs who spend part of their careers as hospital RNs, this allowed them to more effectively juggle work, family, and eventually, graduate education.
For individual women, these institutional arrangements provided a private solution to balancing work with family life. However, these solutions have broader consequences for gender inequality. Because these arrangements were sequestered within a predominately female occupation, they reproduced gendered expectations about women’s investments in family life. Flexible scheduling ensured that women retained primary responsibility for family caregiving. Moreover, nursing’s flexibility reproduced flexible women who could switch specialties, change jobs, or delay graduate education to accommodate the inflexible jobs of partners and spouses. Flexibility became both an opportunity and an obligation. Nursing’s accommodating arrangements are themselves a product of the historical legacy of gender inequality. The continued existence of two-year RN programs is the preference of employers, not the profession. As a female dominated profession, its aspirations remain tempered by hospital demands for an inexpensively trained workforce.
My work suggests an additional explanation for why women continue to crowd into careers like nursing. Women may gravitate toward caring work, but they also care about creating careers. Nursing’s flexibility stands in contrast to the inflexibility women encounter in other parts of the labor market. My work also serves as a caution for relying on workplace policies alone to solve the dilemmas of working women. Without subsidized, national programs for parental leave and child-care, women alone will be pressed to “choose” flexibility. When only women are the beneficiaries of such arrangements, they quickly become segregated into “mommy tracks” or “women’s professions.” The unequal benefits that follow can too easily be attributed to women’s preferences rather than as the product of gender inequality.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
We welcome Professor Jamie Abrams to the Gender & Law Prof Blog for the month of July. She is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law where she teaches Torts, Family Law, Legislation, and Women and the Law. Her research focuses on reproductive and birthing decision-making, gendered citizenship, legal protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence, and legal education pedagogy. Professor Abrams' most recent work includes Debunking the Myth of Universal Male Privilege, in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, and The Feminist Case for Acknowledging Women’s Acts of Violence in the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism
MothersEsquire: An Introduction to a Supportive Community
As a member of the academic community, I often find myself stuck in something of an outsider status with the practicing legal profession. I am not a practicing lawyer, so my role in the local bar associations, CLEs, and practitioner-related groups often is a bit awkward and strained. I attend as many events as I can, but they are downtown and my campus communities have historically not been conveniently located to these groups. The kinds of conversations – particularly those related to gender dimensions of the profession – are often a powerful and painful reminder of the obstacles faced during my six years of private practice, but they do not quite reflect the day-to-day obstacles that I face in academic life. The same outsider phenomenon can also describe the role of students attending these events. I often recommend that students attend bar events and CLE programs, but likewise the relevance and applicability for them might not always translate smoothly to students to justify the commute downtown in the middle of their academic day.
This blog entry is an opportunity to highlight a new organization that I think has ably bridged communities for moms in the legal profession: MothersEsquire. This year has been an important one for the organization of women’s groups. From the D.C. Women’s March to Pant Suit Nation to Law Mamas, there is no shortage of outlets for women and women lawyers to come together this year. The MothersEsquire organization stands out in a couple of key ways.
First, it is not limited to geographical boundaries or bar licensure borders. For example, I am a member of the Maryland Bar, but not a member of the Kentucky Bar where I currently reside. This is an obstacle, or at least a deterrent, to my participation in local bar events. The same is true for many law students who might be studying in Kentucky or Virginia or California, but may not necessary call that community their home later as a practitioner.
Second, MothersEsquire has followed a “participatory action model” of modern governance. Many long-established bar organizations and affinity groups have signature events that fill the calendar like annual dinners, annual fundraisers, annual awards, golf tournaments, etc. As a new group, MothersEsquire has organically responded and adapted to changing conditions faced in communities. For example, when student members last Fall were attending a state bar ethics program and some questionable and inappropriate comments regarding women in the profession were made by a prominent speaker, the group quickly mobilized via social media and local organizers at the event who were also present on social media responded and addressed the concerns effectively and promptly in real time. The organization is also working on breastfeeding accommodations. It was able to effectively advocate for a law student denied bar exam nursing accommodations and it established an advocacy group to work on courtroom accommodations.
Third, the group has played a role and provided a focus that fills a gap in traditional women’s bar associations. Certainly, not all women lawyers are mothers or identify as mothers. Further, not all women lawyers are interested in or need to have an outlet to think about unique issues of parenting and the profession. For those that do, however, this group provides an outlet, an information source, a networking portal, and more. Its website explains:
“We are Moms. We are Lawyers. We are Master-Negotiators and Multi-Taskers -- at work and at home. We are the Equity Partners at the office and the Team Coach at school. We drive mini-vans to depositions and to carpool line. We read briefs by day and Goodnight Moon by night. And we are bringing women together to Disrupt the "Motherhood Penalty" in our profession.”
Finally, this group is unique for its founding in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky by practicing attorney Michelle Coughlin. Historically, countless influential women’s groups and professional change-agents have originated in large coastal cities, or at least perceptively so. This group is distinctively inclusive. It originated in a so-called “red state” or a so-called “flyover state,” but includes members from far beyond that. Its members include SAH mother attorneys, practicing mother attorneys, prospective mother attorneys, and attorney prospective mothers.
For more information about MothersEsquire join the Facebook group or check out its website: I highlight it here on the Gender & Law Blog as a great example of leadership in the profession that bridges academia and practice, crosses geographical boundaries, and fosters organic professional connections.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
New data shows that women are underrepresented in the highest levels of leadership because they are being forced out by dated workplace structures. These structures, which do not represent the modern needs of a two-income household labor force, are causing millions of talented employees to fail, especially working mothers—and the result is massive attrition at every point in the leadership pipeline.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of women who leave the corporate workforce actually want to stay. A recent Bain study showed that women value flexibility over and above any other factor in their career search, including compensation, title, and location. Of the 30 percent of credentialed women who drop out of the workforce, 70percent say they would have stayed if they had access to flexibility. This amounts to 6.6 million women—enough to dramatically increase the number of women in leadership and rapidly accelerate the advancement of corporate gender equality.
Strategic workplace flexibility is the easiest and most cost effective way to retain women in the workplace and advance them to positions of leadership over time.
While many companies have demonstrated a commitment to helping women advance to positions of leadership, they remain largely unsuccessful because strategic flexibility is not a key component of their programming. When companies do provide flexibility programs, they are often underutilized or fail entirely because flexibility is misunderstood. Women tend to not take advantage of existing flexibility policies due to a fear that their requests will make them appear less committed and a concern that flexibility policies will not be faithfully implemented.
Flexibility isn’t simply working from home via video conference or a lifestyle perk like free cereal; it’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about and expect our employees to work. Flexibility does not alter a job’s scope of responsibilities or expected results—it simply modifies the existing agreement between the employer and employee to increase compatibility. And when it’s negotiated in a standardized context, it normalizes the conversation around flexibility and eliminates the bias or discomfort women tend to feel during the interview and hiring process.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Inside Higher Ed, Encouraging Female Faculty to Publish Research
For professors, finding time to do research can be difficult. Especially if they are women.
Numerous studies have found that female professors work the same number of hours as their male counterparts, but they spend less time on research and more time on other commitments. In a 2008 study by professors at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Georgia, female participants spent an hour and a half less per week on research than their male counterparts. A big reason was that they spent an hour more on service and a half hour more on teaching.
The Women Faculty Writing Groups at Texas Tech University aim to combat this gender gap in research. Founded this fall, the program seeks to offer female professors a three-hour chunk of time each week to pursue writing and publishing their research without getting sidetracked by other demands, said Caroline Bishop, assistant professor of classical and modern languages at Texas Tech and a co-founder of the program.
“We really wanted to have a safe, protected time,” Bishop said. “A time when women can say no to other things.”
The overarching goal of the program is to help women prioritize research, which is often the biggest factor in promotion, said Kristin Messuri, associate director of the University Writing Center at Texas Tech and another co-founder of the program. “Women faculty tend to be promoted at lower rates than male faculty,” she said. “They go up for promotion less often. When you get into full professors, there are fewer of them.”
While the program’s goal is ambitious, its structure is simple. At the beginning of each three-hour session, participants discuss articles on productivity and share their progress and goals, Messuri said. The remaining two and a half hours are devoted to writing for publication.
I've done something like this over the years, though it has fallen off. Early on we had the Momus group (we met at Cafe Momus), a mixed group (three women, two men) who bi-weekly shared rough drafts and writing problems. It was here that I really learned how differently people write, and what works and what doesn't.
Then for a few wonderful years we had a small group of women faculty who went to a lake house for a week retreat. The peace and energy jump started our research each summer, and we walked away from the week with a good chunk of work begun. (Not to mention how wonderful it was to have 4 women thoughtfully making coffee, cleaning up the kitchen, making snacks, and conversing over dinner). The realities of life and family made it hard to keep this going, though we tried a "day" retreat for a few years meeting off campus and discussing progress over lunch.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Paula Schaefer (Tennessee), On Balance: Lead by Leaving, Tennessee L.Rev. (forthcoming)
Abstract:Even though women make up half of law school classes in the U.S., hold half of elite judicial clerkships, and accept almost half of the jobs in large U.S. law firms, only a small number of women make partner or serve in leadership roles in those firms. Much has been written about the things that stand in the way of gender equality in elite law firms. Yet misconceptions persist about why the time demands of “big law” have a disproportionate impact on women.
This Article points to evidence that is contrary to those misconceptions and argues that the women – and men – who leave large law firms in search of balance are exhibiting leadership. Contrary to Sheryl Sandberg’s advice that they should “lean in” if they hope to lead, these former big law attorneys are leading by leaving.
Following an Introduction, Part II looks at the numbers of women in the pipeline from law school to elite law firms, and how the numbers drop off precipitously before women achieve partnership and take on leadership positions. Next, Part III considers and refutes two common misconceptions about why women have not succeeded in big law: that women lack ambition and that women cannot shoulder the dual demands of practicing law and being a primary caregiver. The reality is that these women are ambitious and that both women and men leave elite firms for similar reasons. They are often seeking better balance in their professional and personal lives. The topic of balance is the focus of Part IV, which makes the argument that lawyers who are leaving large law firms in search of work-life balance are exhibiting leadership. Turning to the topic of this symposium, Part V concludes with some suggestions about how law school leadership education could address issues of work-life balance and gender disparities in the profession. Rather than framing these as women’s issues, this Part suggests the benefits of presenting these as issues that men and women should consider as they make a plan for their professional and personal lives.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Shannon Weeks McCormack (Washington), Postpartum Taxation: The Internal Revenue Code and the Opt Out, Georgetown L.J. (forthcoming.
Abstract:Legislation seeking to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work has been on the books for decades. Nevertheless, the average American woman still receives less than eighty cents for every dollar earned by the average American man. Happily, the gender pay gap between men and childless women is narrowing over time. Meanwhile, the gap between mothers and others continues to widen. Career interruptions contribute significantly to this disturbing trend — nearly half of mothers opt out of the workforce at some point in their lives, most often to care for young children. Faced with too-short (or non-existent) maternity leaves, inflexible work schedules and the soaring costs of childcare in the United States, this opt out phenomenon is hardly surprising. But with the decision to opt out comes grave cost. Over 90% of opt out moms want to return to the workforce several years after off ramping. Unfortunately, many discover that they are unable to do so. A mother that does manage to reenter the workforce will find that even a short off ramp results in a sizeable and disproportionate reduction in her annual earnings that will persist for every year of her remaining life.
Given this dismal reality, experts that study the biases faced by women in the workplace encourage mothers who want to maintain careers to resist opting out during their children’s preschool years (and to incur the many high costs of doing so) in order to protect their most valuable economic asset — their lifelong earning capacity. Surprisingly, these insights are under- (if not completely un-) utilized in tax scholarship considering the taxation of women and the family. Incorporating these critical insights, this Article shows that the tax laws are already well suited to provide new mothers the encouragement urged by so many non-tax scholars. This Article first proposes several reforms to ensure the postpartum earnings of new mothers are not over-taxed. It then discusses existing mechanisms used by the tax laws to encourage long-term investment and identifies two mechanisms that could be easily fashioned to help new mothers remain in the very imperfect workforce that exists today.
Monday, April 4, 2016
All workers in New York state will soon be eligible for a guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family leave, one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legislative priorities, which passed Thursday in a long-debated budget agreement.
Beginning in 2018, all full- and part-time employees who’ve been working at their jobs for at least six months will have access to up to eight weeks of leave at half their salaries. The policy, which will be funded by employees through payroll deductions, will gradually phase up over four years to 12 weeks and a maximum of two-thirds of the state’s average wage. It also guarantees job protection for all workers who take leave, even those who work for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, which are not subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
With this new policy, New York joins California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island on the elite list of U.S. states that offer guaranteed paid leave to hang out with a new baby, bond with an adopted or foster child, or care for a sick family member. Rhode Island offers four weeks of partial pay and New Jersey and California offer six, placing New York far ahead of the pack, though it still trails most other countries in the world when it comes to maternity leave.
Friday, February 5, 2016
Elizabeth Emens (Columbia), Admin, 103 Georgetown L.J. (2015)
Abstract:This Article concerns a relatively unseen form of labor that affects us all, but that disproportionately burdens women: admin. Admin is the office type work — both managerial and secretarial — that it takes to run a life or a household. Examples include completing paperwork, making grocery lists, coordinating schedules, mailing packages, and handling medical and benefits matters.
Both equity and efficiency are at stake here. Admin raises distributional concerns about those people — often women — who do more than their share of this work on behalf of others. Even when different-sex partners who both work outside the home aspire to equal distribution of household labor, it appears that the family’s admin is more often done by women. Appreciating the unequal distribution of this work helps us to see the costs of admin for everyone. These broader costs include wasted time, lost focus, and interpersonal tension. Though the types of admin demands that people face vary by gender, class, age, and culture, admin touches everyone.
The Article makes this form of labor more salient, both analytically, through an account of its features and costs, and practically, through proposals for public and private interventions. Admin is “sticky.” It frequently stays where it lands, whether with female partners of men, one member of a same-sex couple, an extended family member managing another’s affairs, or parents of some adult children of the so-called millennial generation. By demanding time and attention, admin impinges on leisure, sleep, relationships, and work.
Admin warrants a range of possible regulatory responses. Government should create less admin and possibly do more kinds of admin for people. Regulatory infrastructure should protect people’s time and spur technological innovations that reduce admin. Courts should allow parties in civil suits to claim damages for lost personal time. These and other initiatives should help to make admin more salient as a legal and cultural matter and to reduce its burdens overall. Reducing admin should benefit everyone and, in turn, disproportionately benefit those who bear its greatest burdens.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Table of Contents:
Section One: Approaches to Motherhood, Feminism and Gendered Work
The Role of Theory in Understanding the Lived Experiences of Mothering in the Academy
Andrea N. Hunt
Crying over “Split Milk”: How Divisive Language on Infant Feeding Leads to Stress, Confusion and Anxiety for Mothers
Tracy Rundstrom Williams
Mama’s Boy: Feminist Mothering, Masculinity, and White Privilege
Catherine A.F. MacGillivray
Encountering Others: Reading, Writing, Teaching, Parenting
Erin Tremblay Ponnou-Delaffon
A Qualitative Study of Academic Mothers’ Sabbatical Experiences: Considering Disciplinary Differences
Susan V. Iverson
Motherhood: Reflection, Design, and Self-Authorship
Cynthia J. Atman
Confessions of a Buzzkill: Critical Feminist Parenting in the Age of Omnipresent Media
Section Two: Identity and Performance in Academic Motherhood
More Mother than Others: Disorientations, Motherscholars, and Objects in Becoming
Sara M. Childers
Doing Research and Teaching on Masculinities and Violence: One Mother of Sons’ Perspective
M. Cristine Alcalde, Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies
Cultural Border Crossings between Science, Science Pedagogy & Parenting
“You Must be Superwoman!”: How Graduate Student Mothers Negotiate Conflicting Roles
Erin Graybill Ellis
Jessica Smartt Gullion
“There’s a Monster Growing in our Heads”: Mad Men’s Betty Draper, Fan Reaction, and Twenty-First Century Anxiety about Motherhood
Section Three: Bringing it to Light: Giving Voice to Motherhood’s Challenges
Silence and the Stillbirth Narrative: Stories Worth Telling
Elisabeth G. Kraus
A Tapestry of Sweet Mother(hood): African Scholar, Mother, and Performer?
Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum
Dropped Stitches: Classrooms, Caregiving, and Cancer
Martha Kalnin Diede
The Other Female Complaint: Online Narratives of Assisted Reproductive Therapy as Sentimental Literature
Mama’s Boy: Feminist Mothering, Masculinity, and White Privilege
Catherine A.F. MacGillivray
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
According to a 2010 study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, nearly 75 percent of women attempting to return to the workforce after voluntarily leaving have difficulty finding a job. What’s a talented, driven, hard-working woman to do? Enter the OnRamp Fellowship program, an “experiential re-entry platform” designed to help women lawyers return to the workforce. The program, which began in 2014, is the brainchild of Caren Ulrich Stacy, who spent 20 years inside law firms recruiting talent. She says during those years, she saw hundreds of resumes from qualified women who were attempting to re-enter the profession after leaving, usually to raise families. Some of those gaps were a few years; some were a decade or more. And the gaps made those women seem risky to firms.
While Caren understood the hesitancy of firms to take on lawyers who had been out of the workforce, she felt they were missing out on women who could become top performers and leaders. So she designed the OnRamp Fellowship to given women a pipeline back into the profession. Fellowship applicants are thoroughly vetted by Caren, whose experience and insight helps her select women who will be a good “fit” for each position. Those women are then given the opportunity to interview with some of the top firms in the country for practice groups with open positions or groups expected to experience future growth. Fellows are hired by participating firms for six-month or one-year terms and are paid through those firms. There is no guarantee of employment at the end of their fellowship year, though the hope is that the fellows will obtain full-time employment, either through their fellowship firm or elsewhere. And that’s been the case for most fellows.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Hundreds of women, some of them pregnant or domestic servants who are victims of rape, are being imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates every year under laws that outlaw consensual sex outside marriage, according to a BBC Arabic investigation.
Secret footage obtained by BBC Arabic show pregnant women shackled in chains walking into a courtrooms where laws prohibiting “Zina” – or sex outside marriage – could mean sentences of months to years in prison and flogging.
“Because the UAE authorities have not clarified what they mean by indecency, the judges can use their culture and customs and Sharia ultimately to broaden out that definition and convict people for illicit sexual relations or even acts of public affection,” said Rothna Begum, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch in London.
While both men and women could in theory be imprisoned for having sex outside marriage, the investigation – which will air at the opening of BBC Arabic festival on 31 October – found that in reality pregnancy is often used as proof of the “crime”, with domestic female migrant workers – numbering about 150,000 in the UAE – left most vulnerable.
It's back to the future — and not in a good way for women seeking equity partnership in the nation’s 200 largest law firms.
Women have not made “appreciable progress” since 2006 in either attaining equity partnership or increasing their pay to be on par with their male colleagues once they grasp the brass ring, according to a study by the National Association of Women Lawyers released on Tuesday.
The results: Women represent 18 percent of equity partners, an increase of two percent since 2006, according to NAWL’s findings. Even after they’ve made it into the equity ranks, they make about 80 percent of what their male colleagues bring home. In 2006, women had made 84 percent.
Friday, October 9, 2015
California took a major step Tuesday toward closing the lingering wage gap between men and women, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed one of the toughest pay equity laws in the nation.
Women in California who work full time are paid substantially less — a median 84 cents for every dollar — than men, according to a U.S Census Bureau report this year.
“The inequities that have plagued our state and have burdened women forever are slowly being resolved with this kind of bill,” Brown said at a ceremony at Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park in the Bay Area city of Richmond.
Monday, October 5, 2015
Firstly, to hire women at junior levels and invest in them only to lose them before they can take on the senior roles is a poor outcome business-wise, returns-wise and image-wise.
Secondly, women are increasingly becoming the decision-making consumer. Not having a proper representation of women at senior levels would mean firms are losing out on an opportunity to have leaders who have a better understanding of the needs and psyche of their target consumers. That is a bad business decision.
Thirdly, women will increasingly be the decision-maker and enterprise-buyer on the corporate side as well. Not having top leaders who can easily relate to the situation of senior female executives across the table can have adverse consequences.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Joan Williams and Jessica Lee, It's Illegal, Yet It Happens All the Time, Chronicle of Higher Ed.
Why don’t we have more women in STEM fields? One reason is that students get hounded out of their college or graduate-school programs when they become pregnant. It’s against federal law, but it happens all the time.
One student told us she had a pregnancy-related disability that required her to go to the hospital at least twice a week. Exhausted but driven, she continued to produce quality work. Late in her pregnancy, the publishing deadline she was struggling to meet was accelerated by her department — it now fell right after her due date. Just months prior she had been celebrated as a rising star in her department, but now, she said, "I had to prove I was still worthy to even be in their program." If she didn’t meet the new deadline, she would lose the funding her family relied upon. After her baby was born, she was intimidated into finishing her degree in significantly less time than the average student in her department. The hostility and bias the student faced "traumatized me in so many ways," she said. "I wasn’t asking for accommodations, I wanted to be treated like everybody else, but I was the one who was punished."
A graduate student with a disability caused by childbirth was pursuing her degree full force after a lengthy struggle, only to be told by a faculty mentor, "You don’t have a disability, you just need to go home and be with your baby." Professors frequently make off-the-cuff statements — often written off as harmless — telling pregnant women or new mothers to stay home instead of pursuing their education. Plaintiffs’ lawyers love such direct evidence of gender discrimination.
And it’s not just professors who open their institutions to legal liability. Administrators do, too. A graduate student said she anticipated the birth of her child at the start of the academic year, so she asked to be able to record classes for the first week or two of the semester. The student-affairs dean told the student to withdraw for at least a semester, with no guarantee of readmission, informing her that all of the pregnant students at the institution in the past six years withdrew from the program — except one, who regretted her decision. This student, like many others, didn’t want to take leave at all.
The consequences of being forced out of your program can be grim. Many women need to keep working in their university-sponsored jobs to make ends meet. Yet those jobs are often unavailable to students while they are on leave, or aren’t offered back to them upon their return. On many campuses, being on leave or withdrawn status means losing that income, along with health insurance, loan deferment status, and even your university email address. Sometimes it means losing your housing, too.
Federal law requires that pregnant students must be reinstated following leave to their prior status, without penalty. Yet we hear over and over about women are penalized for their absence, or forced to reapply to their programs as if they had never been accepted.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
If companies are looking for gender bias in their workplace, here’s one place they may want to start: feedback.
Research suggests that men and women are assessed very differently at work. Specifically, managers are significantly more likely to critique female employees for coming on too strong, and their accomplishments are more likely than men’s to be seen as the result of team, rather than individual efforts, finds new research from Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Those trends appear to hold up whether the boss making the assessments is male or female.