Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Accidental Feminism: Gender parity and selective mobility among India's professional elite

Accidental Feminism: gender parity and selective mobility among India's professional elite

Preface to: Accidental feminism: Gender parity and selective mobility among India's professional elite

By Swethaa Ballakrishnen

Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2021.

In India, elite law firms offer a surprising oasis for women within a hostile, predominantly male industry. Less than 10 percent of the country’s lawyers are female, but women in the most prestigious firms are significantly represented both at entry and partnership. Elite workspaces are notorious for being unfriendly to new actors, so what allows for aberration in certain workspaces?

Drawing from observations and interviews with more than 130 elite professionals, Accidental Feminism examines how a range of underlying mechanisms—gendered socialization and essentialism, family structures and dynamics, and firm and regulatory histories—afford certain professionals egalitarian outcomes that are not available to their local and global peers. Juxtaposing findings on the legal profession with those on elite consulting firms, Swethaa Ballakrishnen reveals that parity arises not from a commitment to create feminist organizations, but from structural factors that incidentally come together to do gender differently. Simultaneously, their research offers notes of caution: while conditional convergence may create equality in ways that more targeted endeavors fail to achieve, “accidental” developments are hard to replicate, and are, in this case, buttressed by embedded inequalities. Ballakrishnen examines whether gender parity produced without institutional sanction should still be considered feminist.

In offering new ways to think about equality movements and outcomes, Accidental Feminism forces readers to critically consider the work of intention in progress narratives.

September 28, 2021 in Books, Gender, International, Women lawyers, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 3, 2021

Pandemic Practice - The Disparate Impact on Female Attorneys

Liane Jackson, How Pandemic Practice Left Lawyer-moms Facing Burnout, ABA Journal, August/September Issue (2021).

This article explores the pandemic’s effect on the “participation gap in the labor market” between women and men, and posits that “hard-won gains are disappearing,” “the gap is widening,” and experts posit that the effects “will be felt in the legal industry for years to come.”

It will come as no surprise that “women are America’s default social safety net” and have therefore “taken on the lion’s share of pandemic parenting,” as numerous studies have already shown.  This is due to a number of social pressures and norms, which this article addresses.  Of particular note is the “idealized version of intensive motherhood” which sets a standard by which “women are expected to sacrifice their careers, their well-being, their sleep, [and] their mental health for the good of their children.”  Competing with this social construct, is another equally pervasive standard to which female lawyers are held “of total commitment . . . this ideal worker norm that says you’re supposed to sacrifice everything for your job.”  It is no wonder, in this zero sum game, that increased drinking, stress, desire to leave the profession, and mental health issues are being reported in higher percentages of women than men as a result of a pandemic which left parents with few childcare options and a lead role in their children’s education. “The pandemic has disproportionately affected women and minority attorneys, with female lawyers of color feeling increased isolation and stress.”

So what can we do to alleviate the disadvantage experienced by female attorneys as we begin to return from pandemic-induced remote work environments?  Liane Jackson argues that flexible work options need to be accompanied by a genuine commitment to not allowing those options to come with a conscious or unconscious institutional/advancement penalty.  This requires a “recognizing that family has a value, households have a value and people have a value outside the workplace.”  To do otherwise will “continue[] to threaten retention rates.” We must be intentional as we begin to emerge from this pandemic to not penalize female attorneys whose "productivity" (as traditionally measured) may have fallen below that of male counterparts due to the unequal sharing of pandemic pressures discussed above.  Employers should focus on retention and advancement standards that are equitable to female attorneys who continue to be marginalized by disparate and competing social pressures.  “Women are still being marginalized, and they don’t always have the power base to fight back.” We must do better.

September 3, 2021 in Equal Employment, Family, Gender, Women lawyers, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Bills Introduced in Congress to Allow Professional Licenses of One State to be Valid in State to Which Military Spouse is Relocated

Military spouses’ unspoken oath to America? Giving up careers that require them to stay put.

Military spouses, more than 90 percent of whom are women, often put their careers on the back burner because of their unspoken oath to America. Even before the pandemic, estimates put the unemployment rate of military spouses between three and six times the national rate.

But bills introduced in Congress by Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) would help ease that burden by allowing licenses issued by one state to be considered valid in the state to which the spouse or service member has been relocated on military orders. The House version, which has 25 co-sponsors, has been referred to a subcommittee within the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. If passed, the bill would impact all professional licenses, including those required to be a real estate agent, teacher and nurse.

Most states have some flexibility for military spouses who need to transfer professional licenses, experts say, but it’s a patchwork of various levels of exemptions for each industry. The Department of Defense has been working on the issue since 2011, and 26 states have agreed to at least issuing a license to a military spouse within 30 days with little upfront paperwork, according to Marcus Beauregard, director of the Defense-State Liaison Office.

A congressional bill would create uniformity, advocates say.

September 1, 2021 in Business, Legislation, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Institutional Embeddedness of Mumpreneurship in the UK: A Career Narrative Approach

Institutional Embeddedness of Mumpreneurship in the UK: A Career Narrative Approach

By: Shandana Sheikh and Shumaila Y. Yousafzai

Published on SSRN 

The recent rise in the number of mothers who have started a business from home along with an increase in publicly available profiles of these women has led to the trend of mumpreneurship, i.e., women who set up and manage a business around their child caring role. This research employs a career narrative approach to examine the stories told by a group of 12 British mumpreneurs within the context of UK’s regulatory institutions. The findings suggest that despite having dual responsibility of motherhood and business ownership, mumpreneurs work hard to achieve their aspirations and career objectives. However, their ability to do so is severely constrained by the institutional support, more specifically in terms of child-care provisions and training and financial support.

This study employs a career narrative approach to examine the stories told by a group of 12 mumpreneurs within the context of UK’s regulatory institutional context, specifically the family policies framework. In the UK, while there are current family policies such as childcare benefits, tax credits, maternity leaves and parental allowances, the impact of these policies on mumpreneurship has not been studied. Our objective is to explore how mumpreneurs construct their experiences of moving into entrepreneurship and how regulatory family policies support or constrain them in simultaneously balancing their dual responsibility of business ownership and motherhood.

August 24, 2021 in Business, Family, Gender, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 16, 2021

Working While Mothering During the Pandemic and Beyond

Nicole Buonocore Porter has published Working While Mothering During the Pandemic and Beyond in volume 78 of the Washington & Lee Law Review Online (2021).   

Although combining work and family has never been easy for women, working while mothering during the pandemic was close to impossible. When COVID-19 caused most workplaces to shut down, many women were laid off. But many women were forced to work from home alongside their children, who could not attend daycare or school. Mothers tried valiantly to combine a full day’s work on top of caring for young children and helping school-aged children with remote school. But many found this balance difficult, leading to women’s lowest workforce participation rate in over forty years. And even women who did not quit nevertheless suffered workplace consequences from logging many fewer work hours than before the pandemic. The exact magnitude of this toll, in terms of costs and careers, will not be known for years, if ever. This Article explores the challenges working mothers faced during the pandemic and sketches an outline of what solutions might have mitigated the difficulties during the pandemic and could make a difference in the lives of working mothers moving forward.

August 16, 2021 in Family, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Evaluating the Ten Years of the Federal Law, Break Time for Nursing Mothers

Liz Morris & Jessica Lee, Compliance or Complaints? The Impact of Private Enforceability of Lactation Break Time and Space Laws 

The Break Time for Nursing Mothers requirement has been federal law for over a decade, requiring employers to provide reasonable break time and private space to employees for expressing breast milk. However, non-compliance remains a problem, driven in large part by the lack of enforcement incentive to become educated about and follow the law. Legislation to remedy the enforcement gap in existing law is pending. This report examines an important question policymakers consider when assessing attempts to reform the law: whether and to what extent adding a private enforcement mechanism to a lactation break time and space law impacts litigation rates.

We conducted an in-depth review of lawsuits filed against employers in the four jurisdictions with privately enforceable break time and space laws to examine the likelihood that employers will be sued. Our research identified only 6 lawsuits filed against employers in the jurisdictions over the combined 47 years that the laws have been in effect. All of the lawsuits were brought by employees alleging actual economic damages, typically job loss. Given the small number of cases, the annual likelihood a private company will be sued under an enforceable lactation break time and space law is essentially zero (0.0002%).

WorkLife Law’s data show that allowing employees to enforce lactation break time and space laws in court does not lead to a meaningful increase in litigation.

June 30, 2021 in Family, Legislation, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 17, 2021

Sidlining Women in the Global Pandemic from the Lack of Childcare

Jessica Fink, Sidelined Again: How the Government Abandoned Working Women Amidst a Global Pandemic  
Utah Law Review, Forthcoming 2022

Among the weaknesses within American society exposed by the COVID pandemic, almost none has emerged more starkly than the government’s failure to provide meaningful and affordable childcare to working families – and, in particular, to working women. As the pandemic unfolded in the spring of 2020, state and local governments shuttered schools and daycare facilities and directed nannies and other babysitters to “stay at home.” Women quickly found themselves filling this domestic void, providing the overwhelming majority of childcare, educational support for their children, and management of household duties, often to the detriment of their careers. As of March 2021, more than 5 million American women had lost their jobs, with 2.3 million women no longer even looking for work. Countless other women continue to struggle with the unsustainable demands of performing their paid jobs while simultaneously providing close to full time domestic services at home. On all of these metrics, women of color have found themselves even more acutely affected.

Importantly, this need not have been the case: With a reasonable amount of planning and expense, federal, state, and local governmental resources could have been mobilized to create a solution to this crisis. By establishing and providing funding for “learning pods” throughout the country, the government could have served the needs of countless working families (especially working mothers) by filling this childcare void, while also providing employment assistance to a host of other workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic. In fact, the government could have turned to its own experience – providing childcare to working mothers during World War II and continuing to operate high-quality and affordable childcare for military families today – to deliver this type of childcare assistance to all families currently in need. In declining to do so, the government not only has exacerbated the COVID crisis for innumerable working families, but also has further relegated women to the professional sidelines – a decision destined to have immeasurable and long-term consequences for millions of working women, for the organizations that employ them, and for society as a whole.

May 17, 2021 in Family, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Symposium: COVID Care Crisis and the Impact on Women in Legal Academia

Symposium, COVID Care Crisis, Jan. 14 & 15 (Zoom) (registration free)

In the months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s scholarly output and publications have dropped in various disciplines, while service and care responsibilities that fall disproportionately on junior or marginalized faculty and staff have likely increased. Compounding these pressures, Black faculty and faculty of color more generally have also been coping with the emotional effects of the police killings of George Floyd and others, at the same time that COVID-19’s health effects are concentrating along lines of race and inequality in these communities specifically. All of these factors threaten the output, visibility, status and participation of women and other primary caregiving faculty and staff in legal academia.

Left unaddressed, these disparities also have the potential to alter the landscape of legal academia and further marginalize women and the perspectives they bring to legal scholarship, education, and public dialogue. This symposium seeks to raise awareness of the current COVID care crisis and its impacts on academia, and to begin a dialogue on concrete and innovative responses to this crisis.

January 12, 2021 in Conferences, Equal Employment, Healthcare, Law schools, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Colorado Passes Paid Family and Medical Leave

Colorado Voters Say Yes to a Paid Family and Medical Leave Act Program

Colorado voters have approved a new paid family and medical leave law. The measure had the support of 57 percent of voters as of 9:30 p.m., with a sizable lead of nearly 400,000 votes.

 

Under Proposition 118, Colorado would require that employers provide 12 weeks of paid time off for childbirth and family emergencies. Eight other states and Washington, D.C., have created similar programs in the last two decades.

 

"I am happy for the workers of Colorado," said State Sen. Faith Winter, a paid leave proponent The new law will ensure that mothers don't have to return to work mere days after giving birth, she said, and that cancer patients can take time to heal.***

 

Labor reformers have been trying to pass a similar law in Colorado since 2014, but it has failed each time in the legislature. This year, after legislative efforts fell apart yet again, advocates instead decided to put the measure on the ballot. It’s the first time that voters in any state have been asked to decide on a paid leave law.

 

The supporting campaign had raised nearly $6.5 million as of mid-October, mostly from the North Fund and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, national liberal nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors.

 

Business interests have fought similar measures in Colorado for years — but they ultimately were outspent by a 10-to-1 ratio, said opposition campaign co-chair Dave Davia. It was difficult to raise money amid a bruising pandemic year and with 10 other statewide ballot measures competing for funding, he said.

 

See Lily, Paid Family Leave Has Never Been on a Ballot--Until this Year

 

As voters cast ballots for national, state and local candidates, they will also be asked to vote on Proposition 118, to create a paid family and medical leave program. If passed, it would be the ninth state, plus D.C., to do so.

 

This is the first time it has been directly on a state ballot. In the past, it has always originated from a state legislature or, in the case of D.C., the city council.

 

If passed, workers in Colorado could expect up to 12 weeks of paid leave, with an additional four weeks for qualifying childbirth or pregnancy complications.***

 

In Colorado, the new measure would include maternity, paternity, medical leave, or time off to care for a family member. The program would work like other social insurance programs with employees and employers contributing to a fund, equivalent to 0.45 percent of an employee’s wages. Employers have the option to pay up to 100 percent of the contributions.

 

Businesses with fewer than 10 employees would not have to contribute, but their employees still receive the time off. The average Colorado worker would contribute less than $4 a week, according to the Fairness Project.

 

The measure has received bipartisan support, including from advocates for small businesses, who say owners don’t want to compete with large corporations for benefits.

November 4, 2020 in Family, Legislation, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Gendered Complications of Covid-19: Towards a Feminist Recovery Plan

Naomi Cahn & Linda McClain, Gendered Complications of Covid-19: Towards a Feminist Recovery Plan, Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, 2020

Gendered inequalities are on the frontlines of Covid-19. The catalogue of Covid-19’s impact covers all aspects of women’s lives: work, family, education, health, reproduction, mental and physical well-being, and leisure. The pandemic has exposed the limitations in the current economic system on public and private support for gender equity and the intersecting impact of gender, race, and class in that lack of support. Women of color, particularly Black, Latina, and Native American, are at the intersection of the inequities in the emerging stay-at-home economy. This Article argues that Covid-19 is likely to have complex implications for gender equality and gender equity as state and local governments, the federal government, and private actors focus on recovery plans. The negative impact includes hundreds of thousands of deaths, lingering health complications for many among the several million people who have already contracted the virus, massive economic disruption and loss for individuals, families, and communities and the exacerbation of structural inequalities. The creative policy responses prompted by the devastating impact of Covid-19 provide promise for building a more transformative and equitable future. Indeed, any roadmap to resilience is incomplete without addressing the gender inequities in our social infrastructure. Proposing a feminist recovery plan, this Article focuses on a set of issues relating to gender inequities concerning work and family, including the gender pay gap, the child care crisis, and the disproportionate role of women—particularly, women of color— in providing essential but undervalued care work.

September 22, 2020 in Equal Employment, Family, Gender, Healthcare, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 4, 2019

New CA Law Allows Campaign Funds to be Used for Childcare to Promote Gender Parity Among Elected Officials

Bill Promoting Gender Parity Among Elected Officials Signed into Law by Governor Newsom

A bill introduced by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) that would allow campaign funds to be used for child care by those who choose to run for elected office in California was signed into law Monday by Governor Gavin Newsom.

 

“AB 220 will help create greater gender parity among elected officials in California and more broadly help all parents with young children seek and serve in public office by allowing the use of campaign funds for child care expenses,” said Bonta. “I’m excited and extremely grateful to Governor Newsom for signing AB 220 into law.” 

 

AB 220 amends the Political Reform Act of 1974 to expressly allow campaign funds to be used for child care by those who choose to run for elected offices in California. 

 

Currently, there is no statute in California or official ruling by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) allowing candidates to use campaign funds for child care purposes. That meant any person who attempted to use campaign funds for child care expenses had no statutory protection and would have been relying on a 20-year-old, non-binding advice letter by the FPPC which does not carry the weight of law. AB 220 provides certainty for parents of young children seeking office by placing this allowance in statute. 

October 4, 2019 in Family, Gender, Legislation, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Third Circuit Holds that Gender Segregated Pool Schedule for Seniors Violates Fair Housing Act

Gender-segregated Pool Schedule for Seniors Condo Discriminates Against Women, Third Circuit Says

A New Jersey condominium association’s sex-segregated pool schedule discriminates against women in its “allotment of favorable swimming times,” a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

 

A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Philadelphia held that while A Country Place—a seniors condominium that has enforced the schedule since 2011—provides “roughly equal swimming time for both men and women,” women are only able to swim for 3½ hours after 5 p.m. on weeknights, while men are permitted to swim for 16½ hours during this period.

 

The schedule also only allows men to swim from 4 p.m. onward on Friday, according to the ruling, which was reported by Courthouse News Service and Asbury Park Press.

 

“Women with regular-hour jobs thus have little access to the pool during the workweek, and the schedule appears to reflect particular assumptions about the roles of men and women,” Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote in the opinion.

 

A Country Place adopted the sex-segregated pool schedule to accommodate the Orthodox Jewish principle of tznius, or modesty. By 2016, two-thirds of the condominium’s residents were Orthodox, the opinion says.

 

Marie Curto, Steve Lusardi and his wife Diana Lusardi filed the lawsuit against the condominium association alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and several New Jersey state laws after they were fined $50 each by the condominium association for swimming during unsanctioned times. Curto wanted to swim with her family after work, while Steve Lusardi wanted to help his wife with pool therapy after she had a series of strokes.

 

The District Court for the District of New Jersey granted summary judgment to A Country Place after it found “the gender-segregated schedule applies to men and women equally,” Ambro said.

 

The 3rd Circuit panel disagreed, holding that due to the specific inequitable features, the pool schedule discriminates against women under the FHA.

April 25, 2019 in Family, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Guest Blogger: MeToo in the Legal Profession

#MeToo in the Legal Profession

Daniela Kraiem, Associate Director Women and the Law Program, American University Washington College of Law

 

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:

(See also these remarks by Daniela Kraiem, or watch the entire panel discussion complete with introductions by Kendra Brown, closing remarks by Ann Shalleck, and Q&A).

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.

March 13, 2018 in Conferences, Equal Employment, Guest Bloggers, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Being Mary Beard

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.

February 1, 2018 in Education, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Too Pretty to be a Lawyer

From Guest Blogger Catherine Dunham, Professor of Law, Elon University School of Law 

directory photo of Catherine Dunham

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.

January 10, 2018 in Guest Bloggers, Law schools, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

How Individual Balancing Choices at Work can Reproduce Gender Roles

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.

August 31, 2017 in Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Guest Blog: MothersEsquire: A Professional Community for Lawyer Moms

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

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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.     

July 6, 2017 in Family, Guest Bloggers, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Flexibility as the Key to Women's Leadership and Workplace Success

Flexibility Will Close the Women's Leadership Gap

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.

March 28, 2017 in Business, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Women Faculty Writing Groups

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.

 

July 5, 2016 in Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)