Alice Shih

Yale Law Study on Gender from the Professors’ Point of View

This is the third post in a series about Yale Law Women’s study, Yale Law School Faculty & Students Speak Up About Gender: Ten Years Later. The second post examined the results of classroom observation. Student volunteers interviewed 54 professors (out of 83 professors contacted). Fourteen were women professors and forty were men professors. Each professor spoke with a student one-on-one for an hour regarding his or her views on gender dynamics inside and outside of the classroom and beyond law school. The interviews revealed significant differences between women and men faculty. Below are the major findings based on the professor interviews.

First, Yale professors reported that they make themselves accessible to students, with 72% of professors reporting that they hold regular office hours. Interestingly, women professors (86%) are much more likely than their men colleagues (50%) to hold regular office hours and to meet with students by appointment. Even though professor accessibility appears high, professors noted that fewer students come to office hours now than in years past. Still, according to the student survey, men (3.6 times a semester on average) tended to attend office hours more than women (2.6 times a semester on average).

Second, gender disparities were stark when it came to advocating for students, which the study measured through letters of recommendations. Women faculty wrote significantly more letters of recommendation (on average 7.1 letters per professor) than men faculty (on average 4 letters per professor). Professors reported writing roughly equal numbers of clerkship recommendations for men and women students in the last clerkship cycle. However, over professors’ time at Yale Law, they wrote significantly more recommendations for Supreme Court clerkships for men than women. This could indicate that more men than women seek Supreme Court clerkships. But on the other hand, it may show that there is less gender disparity in clerkship recommendations today than in the past.

Third, the study found that women students are actively trying to build relationships with professors. Women students accounted for the majority of research assistants (58%) and teaching assistants (54%). The study did find that women professors were more likely to hire women students and men professors were more likely to hire men students.

And lastly, almost every woman professor had well-developed views of mentoring and had clearly thought much about her role in mentoring. While some men professors also had thoughtful views about mentoring, a large proportion said they never gave it much thought.

These findings point to the importance of faculty diversity and particularly to increasing the proportion of women faculty. Our findings indicate that women professors relate differently to students, in a way that seems to benefit women more. However, although the current student body is close to 50/50 for men and women, the Yale Law faculty is far from 50/50 (in the 2011-12 school year, 21.2% of faculty were women). As a result, the current women professors are bearing a disproportionate burden of advocacy and mentoring for students.

Download the full report here

Thank you to the Board of the Speak Up Study for their contributions to this post.

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