The other women’s career

Reading many of these discussions about women dropping out of the legal profession, especially out of big firms, inspired me to look up statistics on women law professors, which as we know are only slightly easier to find than women Senators. If wanting to be a good mother is driving women out of legal practice, how does that explain the shameful dearth of female law professors, particularly tenured ones? An academic schedule seems much more conducive to having a family, and might, in theory, be more about intellectual achievement and less about the aggressiveness that we associate with large firms. With the high numbers of women graduating from law school, why don't the ranks of our own law faculties reflect the student bodies? The numbers we're talking about: Of course, different sources reported somewhat different numbers, but all within a fairly similar range. According to the Association of American Law Schools Statistical Report on Law School Faculty for 2002-2003, fully tenured female law professors make up 25.2 percent of law faculties nationwide and 34.2 percent of the total law faculty count. That's certainly progress from the 13 percent of female law school professors in 1991. But with that rate of growth -- roughly 1 percent a year -- it will take another 25 years for women to reach the 50-percent mark. And why? Well, lots of reasons, for sure. I think some of the same reasons that we see so few women partners in firms still apply: the way women are judged, the expectations of what they are capable of, the networking dynamics, etc. I also think it's fairly well documented (sorry I have nothing to cite here) that female professors are judged much more harshly by students across the board, in the abstract and on evaluations. I don't know how much those affect promotion or tenure decisions, but I suspect that they reflect generally on the way women are judged as professionals in general. There's a lot that goes into this in terms of historical truths and stereotypes of men and women, such as impressions of authority, vocal pitch, sternness, etc. But ever since I learned that I have been very careful about evaluating my professors and thinking closely about what I value from them and what are their weaknesses. What might I tolerate in a male professor that I wouldn't in a woman or vice versa? I had a conversation with a fellow student my first year about our torts professor, who, in my opinion, was really excellent. This student said she didn't like her much because: "I just felt that she had something to prove." To which I responded: "If you're a female professor, I think you do." But I resent that. And my larger response, since I'm still stewing over that conversation, is to current deans and faculty who make these decisions: what is going on in the hiring process that you are not hiring more women, especially on tenure tracks?

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