Women now make up a (slight) majority of JD students and that’s a milestone to celebrate. But why did it take us so long to reach this milestone? And will we be able to maintain women’s success throughout law school and their careers? I offer some thoughts here.
During three years of law school, I learned the law from only one female professor. But she was a gem: the future Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. After graduation, I had the honor of clerking for then-Judge Ginsburg on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The following year, I clerked for an equally admirable woman in law, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Justices Ginsburg and O’Connor faced stiff sexism throughout their careers. Even when they ascended to the Supreme Court, their gender could diminish them. I heard one lawyer address the Court as “your honors and Mrs. O’Connor.” Other advocates confused Ginsburg and O’Connor, despite their different jurisprudence and physical appearance.
Entering the law a generation after these pioneers, I faced much lower barriers–although women of my generation still struggled to prove their value in the workplace and to combine work and family. Today’s women, another generation forward, face a somewhat more hospitable workplace. But I don’t kid myself that the playing field is level: glass ceilings, hidden biases, and workplace stereotypes still hinder women in the legal workplace. Both men and women, meanwhile, struggle to combine a demanding professional career with a supportive home life.
Against that background, I’m delighted to announce that LST Radio is creating a podcast mini-series that will explore the ongoing role of gender in the legal workplace. Episodes will address implicit bias, the leaky pipeline, media images of female lawyers, and much more. Podcasts will include summaries of expert research, interviews with individuals, and round table discussions.
LST has assembled a first-rate team of producers, as well as partners who will distribute the podcasts widely. But to go into production, they need some start-up funds. Diversity Law has made a generous matching pledge: If you donate to the “Women in the Law” podcast project now, your dollars count double. Give $10 and the project receives $20. Give $25 and $50 goes in the pot. I’ve already made my pledge–please add your dollars here.
Let’s make sure we understand the forces that still hold women lawyers back–and work to overcome them.
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