Paul L. Caron

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Identity Politics Is Failing Women In Legal Academia

Sahar F. Aziz (Rutgers), Identity Politics Is Failing Women in Legal Academia, 69 J. Legal Educ. ___ (2019): 

Journal of Legal Education (2018)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.

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There is something strange about the (frequent) claim that law schools segregate women into legal writing positions. It seems to imply that qualified women who apply for tenure-track jobs are denied those jobs but then shunted into legal-writing or other non-tenure-track positions. I'm not sure that's how it works in practice. The kinds of people who apply for tenure-track jobs, at least at quality law schools, are very different from the kind who apply for non-tenure-track jobs. The qualifications are different. The fact that legal writing jobs, for example, are dominated by women isn't driven by law schools refusing to hire women as tenure track professors, it is much more likely driven by skewed demographics in the applicant pool for non-tenure-track positions. The situation is not at all like the bad old days where unions would use tightly defined job categories and control over training opportunities and apprenticeships to exclude blacks from the high-skilled craft jobs. Yet I think that that anachronistic and inapposite example is what this article at least implicitly seems to have in mind.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Sep 26, 2019 2:13:42 PM

It's encouraging to see this coming from Rutgers

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Sep 26, 2019 4:12:05 AM

"... 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."

I eagerly anticipate a renewed 'debate" in the form of trial by combat. Something tells me the patriarchy will still dominate. Seriously though, this sounds like a demand for incivility, irrational argument, and resort to emotional haranguing instead of calm discussion.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Sep 26, 2019 3:38:03 AM