The Gender Wage Gap and Equal Pay Day

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paydayMy brother and I used to love to play the game of Life. We’d always go to the college route because it didn’t take much to see that going straight into business was going to get you the lowest pay on the board ($12,000, at the time). We’d grumble if we ended up teachers (the next lowest pay at $24,000) and always wished for that coveted doctor salary (the highest pay at $50,000). Ironically, we both became teachers in the real game of Life.  But that aside, one thing in that game was always certain: if we both ended up with the same occupation, the pay was the same every payday, for him and for me.

The real game of Life isn’t like that.  Today is Equal Pay Day—the date on which the average woman earns what the average man made in the preceding year.  Except it’s taken the average woman an extra 98 days to earn it.

We’ve heard much about the gender wage gap; the fact that the average woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. It’s a number that has stubbornly resisted change for about a decade. And when you break it down further, women of color suffer from an even wider gap than white women when comparing their salaries with white men—64% for African American women and 53% for Latinas. Yes, the gap does close somewhat, if you adjust for education and occupation, but there’s always a gap. Read more »

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Guide to Public Speaking for Girl Lawyers

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Lauren-Bacall-150x150Yes, I wrote “girl” in that headline.  And for a very specific reason. Recently, it’s hit the web that global law firm Clifford Chance has provided its female lawyers in its U.S. offices with a guide to public speaking. And while some (nay, even most) of the tips are perfectly reasonable, there are others that smack of such sexism to the extent that one might believe that Clifford Chance thinks of its female lawyers as girls.  To wit, one of the points in the guide:  “Don’t giggle.” Another: “Pretend you’re in moot court, not the high school cafeteria” (on “‘Like’ You’ve got to Lose ‘Um’ and ‘Uh,’ ‘You Know,’ ‘OK,’ and ‘Like’).

Like, seriously?

On both points, they are equally applicable to male lawyers. (Yes, men do giggle, but the use of that word here suggests something very female, very childish, and very undesirable.) Yet, it was only Clifford Chance’s female lawyers who received this five-page memo. It’s curious to me why this is so. Does the firm believe that there are separate rules for men and women? Does it believe that women need the extra help? Or is it attempting to support its female lawyers? If it is attempting to support its female lawyers, I applaud its desire, but criticize its way of doing so. Read more »

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Toddlers, Tiaras and the Law

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“On any given weekend, on stages across the country, little girls and boys parade around wearing makeup, false eyelashes, spray tans and fake hair to be judged on their beauty, personality and costumes. … From hair and nail appointments, to finishing touches on gowns and suits, to numerous coaching sessions or rehearsals, each child preps for their performance. But once at the pageant, it’s all up to the judges and drama ensues when every parent wants to prove that their child is beautiful.” (“About Toddlers & Tiaras”, The Learning Channel).

If the parent’s quest to prove her child’s superior beauty is, indeed, the point of beauty pageants, French parents may soon need to find alternative ways of doing so. The New York Times reports that the French upper house this week passed a women’s rights bill that includes a ban on beauty pageants for children under the age of 16; the measure now goes to the lower house for discussion. Read more »

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Adam’s Rib as an Historical Document: The Plight of Women Lawyers in the 1940s

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In a recent post, Professor Lisa Mazzie offered her observations on the 1949 film classic, Adam’s Rib, which stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as husband-and-wife attorneys who end up on opposite sides of the same murder case. Like Professor Mazzie, I have long been fascinated with the movie, especially as an historical document.

Trying to figure out what it is that Adam’s Rib has to say about women and the legal profession in the 1940’s turns out to be a bit perplexing. Does it endorse the idea that women make just as good attorneys as men, or is it merely just a celebration of the uniqueness of Hepburn’s character?

Although you would not necessarily discern this from the movie itself, Adam’s Rib was filmed at a time in which the role of women in the legal profession was apparently changing in significant ways.

In an era when very few women went to law school and even fewer practiced law, the 1940’s were, thanks to World War II, a decade of expanded opportunities for women in the legal profession. Unfortunately, this expansion turned out to be quite temporary. Read more »

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Tickling “Adam’s Rib”

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imagesCAX2MCOUI recently got around to watching the classic 1949 movie “Adam’s Rib,” featuring the charismatic duo Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

The movie is about a married couple—Tracy and Hepburn—who are also lawyers.  Tracy’s character, Adam Bonner, is an assistant district attorney.  Hepburn’s character, Amanda Bonner, is a Yale law grad and apparently in private practice.  The two live what we might these days call a DINK (double income, no kids) lifestyle. They live in a fabulously decorated two-story apartment filled with expensive looking furniture and paintings, where their maid prepares them breakfast and serves it to them in their bedroom on a silver tray; they enjoy retreating to their country home in Connecticut (fully paid for in only six years, they tell their accountant); and when it comes time for dressing, they retreat to their his-and-hers closets where, particularly in Hepburn’s case, there is an abundance of incredible clothes for all occasions. Adam and Amanda are obviously in love. It appears that for each of them, the other’s accomplishments are a source of pride. 

Until the day Adam is assigned to prosecute Doris Attinger. Read more »

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Margaret Thatcher and Women in Government

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Category: Election Law, Federal Law & Legal System, Feminism, International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Popular Culture & Law, Public
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“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”

– Margaret Thatcher

One of the world’s most powerful women died today.  Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s only woman prime minister, was 87.

Thatcher, leader of the country’s Conservative Party, was British prime minister from 1979 to 1990.  According to CNN.com, she shared “a close working relationship” with former President Ronald Reagan, “with whom she shared similar conservative views.” Initially dubbed “Iron Lady” by Soviet journalists, she was well known (for better or for worse) for her personal and professional toughness. (For interesting commentary on Thatcher and her impact, see here, here, and here.)                                               

Thatcher was a trailblazer, one of just a very few women to become heads of their country’s government. While women make up nearly half of the world’s population, worldwide, they represent roughly 16% of the members of national governing bodies.  In the United States, women account for only 18.1% of Congress, 33% of the United States Supreme Court, and no woman has ever been elected president.

So, what’s the problem? Some would argue that there’s nothing stopping women from running for office, even for president. True, there are no laws that outright prohibit women’s participation in government.  (Saudia Arabia, long the hold out on allowing women to vote and to serve in government, has finally reversed course.)  But there are other barriers that may be less obvious. Read more »

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An American in Beijing: Landmark Domestic Violence Ruling in China

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Last weekend, a Beijing court granted a divorce on grounds of domestic violence, in a case which has garnered widespread attention and debate in China for the past year. In 2011 an American woman, Kim Lee, went public on social media websites (including with graphic photographs) with allegations that her husband, an infamous English teacher by the name of Li Yang (founder of “Crazy English”), was abusive. Her battle for due legal protection and recognition of her plight culminated in the Beijing decision, which granted her a divorce, and issued a three-month protection order against Li Yang – apparently the first time such an order has been granted in Beijing. In addition to acknowledging the domestic violence, the court ordered Li Yang to pay 50,000 RMB [approximately $8000] in compensation, and a further $1.9 million as part of the divorce.

Kim Lee has become a symbolic hero for domestic violence victims in China, and her case has ignited interest and debate about the issue of domestic abuse. Read more »

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Time to Finally Pass the Equal Rights Amendment?

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Equal-Rights-Amendment-imageIn 1776, as the founders were meeting to form the new government for the nation that would become the United States of America, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John Adams and asked him “to remember the ladies” while drafting the governing documents.  She continued,

[B]e more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors [have been].  Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. . . . [I]f particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

Quoted in Susan Gluck Mezey, Elusive Equality:  Women’s Rights, Public Policy, and the Law 5 (2011) (internal citations omitted). 

John Adams responded, “I cannot but laugh . . . .” Id. To Mr. Adams, this was the first he’d heard of women’s possible discontent with the status quo.  “[Y]our letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all the rest were grown discontented.” Id. For whatever “power” that Mr. Adams suggested that women had, it clearly wasn’t enough, for the new Declaration of Independence and Constitution failed to give any express (or even implied) rights to women. 

Mrs. Adams responded to her husband, “I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist on retaining an absolute power over wives.” Id. Read more »

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Ban on Women in Combat: A Response

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I recently had the opportunity to read Professor Mazzie’s post on the lifting of the ban on women serving in combat.  As a military officer with over 20 years of service to include a recent overseas deployment to a combat zone, I thought that I would offer my personal observations and opinions related to this matter.

First, while I personally have not served on the “front lines,” I generally agree with the lifting of the ban.  Since September 11, 2001, women have served alongside men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places around the world.  The majority of women have served with great distinction and all of them who have served have made great sacrifices (let us also not forget about the sacrifices that their families have made).  As Professor Mazzie notes, since September 11, 2001, 152 women have made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of this country. 

As a person who enlisted as a Private in 1992, I have seen how the military has grown, matured, and become more professional over the years, especially since the rapid deployment of service members over the last 11 years.  Professor Mazzie entitles her post “Ban on Women in Combat Lifted: Is the Military Ready?”  For the reasons cited above, I do believe that the military is ready.  If the military is not ready at this point in time, after 11 plus years of overseas operations in which women have played a key role in the success of these operations, I personally do not believe that the military will ever be ready.  To put it simply, I believe that the timing is right and the lifting of the ban is the right thing to do. 

All that being said, I do believe that some of the arguments made by opponents of the lifting of the ban have some validity.  Read more »

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Ban on Women in Combat Lifted: Is the Military Ready?

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This week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the military’s ban on women in combat will be lifted.  According to the Department of Defense, 14.6% of the nation’s military is made up of women; according to The N.Y. Times and Huffington Post, more than 280,000 of them were deployed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  While those women were banned from combat, they often saw combat action nonetheless, as they were attached to battalions in positions that sometimes came under fire.  Of the more than 6,600 troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, 152 of them have been women

There may still be some combat positions that women will not be allowed to fill; however, the presumption seems to be that all combat positions are open to women unless a particular branch of the military requests an exception and presumably has the burden to prove why women should not be so allowed.  Previous opposition to women in combat often revolved around concerns about women’s strength and whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.  Clearly, not all women will be physically capable of certain assignments. But then again, neither are all men.  At least now, those women who are capable and who want to fill those assignments will have the opportunity to do so.  The argument about unit cohesion is also one that had long been made against allowing gays—and African Americans before them—to serve in the military.  That argument, too, has been debunked, and since 2012, LBGT soldiers can serve openly.    

Allowing women in combat opens up hundreds of thousands of new jobs for women and allows women the opportunity to climb the ranks in the military.  Without combat leadership experience, military advancement, regardless of the soldier’s gender, is limited.  In the past, this limitation disproportionately stifled women’s military careers.  No longer. As The New York Times reported, General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in a letter that the lifting of the ban ensures “that women as well as men ‘are given the opportunity to succeed.’”

Despite the public support for allowing women in combat, there are those who oppose the idea, with one retired army general calling it “a vast social experiment in which hundreds of thousands of men and women will be the guinea pigs.” The decision, he maintains, is ideologically based and not militarily based. Read more »

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The “Feisty” Secretary Clinton—An Object of Media Bias?

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Regarding the recent Senate committee hearings on the September 2012 attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, several major media outlets described Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as, among other things, “feisty.” Strictly from a definitional standpoint, the media’s characterization appears unobjectionable. Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, for example, most relevantly defines “feisty” as “quarrelsome, aggressive, belligerent, etc.” and these words arguably capture at least some aspects of Secretary Clinton’s remarks.

A modest examination of American English usage suggests that “feisty” is commonly used to refer to the behavior or character of people in a group (e.g., “the candidates had a feisty debate” or “it sure is a feisty crowd”) or to an animal, particularly a small rambunctious animal (e.g., “that there is one feisty critter”). Indeed, the word’s proximate origins concern the temperamental nature of mixed-breed dogs, and its earliest origins concern the malodorous passing of gas—hence a “fisting hound” in late 17th-century England was an undesirably flatulent dog.

The term “feisty” can also be used, of course, to describe the demeanor or behavior of an individual person. When used in that way, however, it seems more frequently to describe the elderly (“feisty octogenarian” retrieved 17,200 Google hits), the relatively young, and—it appears—women, or at least certain women. Read more »

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Wisconsin Prisoners, c. 1960

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As part of my ongoing research into the origins of mass incarceration, I’ve been spending some quality time recently with a voluminous, fifty-year-old government report by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Characteristics of State Prisoners, 1960.  This was a once-a-decade production by the BOP in those days, and it contains a wealth of information.

I find it fascinating to have this window into 1960, for at that time — unbeknownst to the report’s authors, of course — everything in American criminal justice was just about to change forever.  In fact, crime was already on the rise in the Northeast United States, foreshadowing a nationwide swell of violence that would continue to gather force until well into the 1970′s.  Even today, we have yet to return to the historically low levels of criminal violence of the mid-twentieth century.  And then, on the heels of the crime wave, came the great imprisonment boom — a period of unprecedented growth in American incarceration that began in about 1975 and continued uninterrupted for more than three decades.

Yes, it is easy to imagine 1960 as a more innocent time!

Using the state breakdowns from the 1960 report, I’ve drawn some comparisons between the Wisconsin of then and now:   Read more »

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