Identity Politics Is Failing Women in Legal Academia
Journal of Legal Education (Fall 2019, Forthcoming)
7 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 12, 2019
Two universal truths about patriarchy: it’s global and it’s tenacious. As women in legal academia, we are not shielded from the consequences of this reality.
Starting from this premise, my contribution to this important (yet perennial) discussion on gender (in)equity in legal academia is framed around three points. First, formalistic identity politics grounded in immutable characteristics is failing our generation of women (and women of color in particular) in the legal profession, including in the academy. Second, women who have managed to overcome the hurdles imposed by patriarchy to reach official leadership positions are as subject to institutional capture and conflicts of interest as their male counterparts. Third, the politics of civility in law schools is a patriarchal tool deployed to constrain women’s ability and willingness to radically reform existing systems of inequality.
Due to concerted advocacy over decades, the number of women law students, faculty, and administrators has gradually increased. In 2018, women comprised 52% of law students. On law faculties, women are estimated to be between 32% to 38% with women of color comprising less than 10%. In 2013 when the latest data was collected, 36% of tenure-track and tenured professors were women, with the number slowly rising since then. In 2019, approximately 35% of law deans are women. However, over 70% of legal research and writing professors are women, most of whom do not have tenure-track or tenured positions and are paid significantly less than tenure track and tenured (male and female) law professors. Hence simply putting women in high status positions is no guarantee the gender inequity in pay, promotion, and pedagogy will disappear.
Keywords: Women, Legal Education, Legal Academia, Women's Rights, Feminism, Pay Gap, Equal Pay Act
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