TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do Law Schools Mistreat Women Faculty?

Dan Subotnik (Touro), Do Law Schools Mistreat Women? Or. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,  44 Akron L. Rev. 867 (2011):

After many years of invisibility, women are now prominent in all domains of law school life. They represent more than two-thirds of legal writing faculty and an ever-increasing percentage of deanships, now 23%. More important, they make up 49% of new tenure track faculty (a rate equal to their proportion as law school graduates), and apparently even have a substantial edge over men with equal credentials in getting these jobs. Thereafter, women faculty members are promoted at a rate that may be higher than that of men.

Do these data support the claim that for “both new and senior women faculty, gender bias is still a major fact of life” and should it concern the rest of us that, as Professor Richard Neumann has lamented, “women will not make up 40% of the professoriate until 2017 given the slow rate of women’s gains in law school employment”?

In evaluating this last question, the alternatives are worth considering. Should faculty men be pushed out to make room for women? Should men be removed from hiring pools? Those unhappy with current state of affairs dare not face the obvious implications. Some commentary may therefore be helpful. Firing faculty men, however beneficial in terms of gender proportionality, would start a war from which the academy would never recover. All-out struggle is, admittedly, not necessarily a bad idea. But is that what critics want? Giving a woman a leg up, moreover, is unfair to the innocent man searching for his own toe hold and is of no use to the woman who reached for the ladder twenty years ago only to have it pulled away. It will also raise troublesome questions about the qualifications of women who get tenure-track jobs. If there is no realistic alternative, would it not be better to allow law schools the freedom to decide who belongs on top and who on the bottom based on their own notions of merit? ...

I bring good news, and from a venerable source. Not mandating simply that we love our enemies,—a pill that gender critics discussed here would surely find hard to swallow—Jewish tradition is both pragmatic and morally transformative. It suggests that if women faculty can only agree that the moral standing of their male colleagues is at worst, ambiguous—at this point—, love can and perhaps should fill our law schools. Love? Yes, love. “Better,” Jewish tradition teaches, “to love in error than to hate in error.”

Legal Education | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Do Law Schools Mistreat Women Faculty?:


If a woman feels that she needs an added advantage from a law school, she can always claim American Indian ancestry.

Posted by: Woody | May 31, 2012 4:26:56 PM

STUNNINGLY sexist article. It is hard to believe this has even been published. Yes, I am a woman, and I do not teach in the "traditional woman's" area. But I can tell you, the pay is much, much lower for women who have the same amount of time and history of scholarly articles. Yes, the "pink ghetto" is alive and well. Instead of a scholarly article, this author seems to make off-the-cuff personal observations. Thanks, but I'll stick to the facts, not opinions.

Posted by: yesIamawoman | May 31, 2012 6:12:09 PM

It is never surprising that either groups claims to be the slighted party.

Perhaps the greater cure would be to address the issue of the missing elderstates-women of the academy, not the junior ranks. Surely there are enough female partners in the land to redress the issue? Maybe more consideration should be given to those who didn't come up through the academic trenches but are otherwise outstanding attorneys.

Balance should be maintained, it's good practice and good for teaching, but the issue is really an issue of who wasn't hired two decades ago, not who wasn't hired last week.

More balance at the top would likely be the most direct path to curing the salary imbalances as well.

Posted by: Keinerle | Jun 1, 2012 12:00:43 AM

If some people want male-female balances in fields related to the law, then why not discuss the inequity between male and female populations in prisons? Sure, men have earned the distinction of being overly represented in prisons, but maybe they have, also, in legitimate fields. Promote people by what they achieve rather than discriminate against the achievers.

Posted by: Woody | Jun 1, 2012 8:04:41 AM

Silly Woody, don't you know that disproportionate impact studies are only acceptable when they advance liberal positions? We cannot point to the lack of Asian NBA players, or the lower number of white NFL players, or the great prison example you cited.

We must have equality in numbers, except when it's ok not to!

Posted by: Todd | Jun 1, 2012 8:25:00 AM

I reckon that at least 40% of the law school professoriate are graduates of the legal academies at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, or Chicago. Where are the protests concerning the discriminatory stance law school hiring committees take against the other 195 law schools in this country?

Posted by: Food for Thought - | Jun 1, 2012 10:43:17 AM

So women are becoming dominant in law schools at the same time that the law schools are falling apart. Is this really a new story, or is it just another version of what happened to other professions (teaching, secretaries, etc.) in the past.

Posted by: michael livingston | Jun 2, 2012 3:57:12 AM

There are many issues regarding the status of women law professors.

The Akron Law Review has previously published two articles directly confronting some of those issues. Compare Dan Subotnik, "Do Law Schools Mistreat Women Faculty? Or, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," 44 Akron L. Rev. 867 (2011), with Marina Angel, "The Modern University and Its Law School: Hierarchical Bureaucratic Structures Replace Coarchical, Collegial Ones; Women Disappear from Tenure Track and Reemerge as Caregivers: Tenure Disappears or Becomes Unrecognizable," 38 Akron L. Rev. 789 (2005).

The many issues regarding gender equality in legal academia require greater exploration than has recently been accorded in the law reviews.

The Akron Law Review, thus, proposes to publish a symposium that will provide an extended examination of issues regarding the status of women in the legal academy. The law review will seek to develop the subject from many perspectives, including statistical, experiential, and historical perspectives. Our goals will also include exploration of techniques that may be used to transform situations of inequality and proposals for making improvements.

The Akron Law Review will publish a general Call for Papers for this symposium later this summer. However, we will begin accepting articles immediately. If you are interested in participating in this symposium, please submit articles or essays by email at or by mailing a hardcopy to: Tiffany L. Porter, Editor-in-Chief, Akron Law Review, The University of Akron School of Law, 150 University Ave., Akron, OH 44325.
If you have questions, please contact me, Tiffany L. Porter, at and (330) 209-4027.

Posted by: Tiffany L. Porter | Jun 25, 2012 2:20:53 PM