Gender and Negotiation–Prof. Schneider Takes the TED Stage

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TED talks can be a wonderful vehicle for academics to present their research in an accessible, neatly distilled way for a large audience. Our own Andrea Schneider has a new talk in the best TED tradition, explaining her fascinating work on gender and negotiation. Delivered at a recent TEDx event in Oshkosh, Andrea’s talk is entitled, “Women Don’t Negotiate and Other Similar Nonsense.” Congratulations, Andrea!

Bill Cosby’s Honorary Degrees Rescinded & Sexual Assault Charges Filed

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Feminism, Public1 Comment on Bill Cosby’s Honorary Degrees Rescinded & Sexual Assault Charges Filed

bill-cosby-mugshot-640x400In May 2013, comedian Bill Cosby received an honorary doctorate of letters from Marquette University. In his address to the students, he told them “to go into the world remembering the values they learned from the school’s Jesuits—respect, integrity and a responsibility to serve others.” In retrospect, it’s ironic advice coming from him.

In the past year, a large number of women have come forward to say that Cosby sexually assaulted them, with incidents going back to the mid-1960s. To date, that number has swelled to more than 50. The stories of the alleged assaults have some general similarities: Cosby offered to mentor the women or coach them with acting; he offered them drinks; the women then felt dizzy or woozy and some may have passed out; some of them describe waking up in various states of undress.

Yesterday, Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a felony, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, stemming from an encounter in 2004 with Andrea Constand, then operations director for Temple University women’s basketball team, who believed Cosby was a mentor and a friend. The allegations in the complaint parallel the numerous other allegations. The complaint alleges Cosby gave Constand some pills and told her to sip some wine; Constand felt dizzy and felt she had no sense of time; Cosby then sexually assaulted her. The case was re-opened this summer, prosecutors said, after new evidence emerged. That new evidence was Cosby’s deposition testimony in the civil suit Constand filed against him. In his deposition, Cosby admitted giving women Quaaludes in an effort to have sex with them. Continue reading “Bill Cosby’s Honorary Degrees Rescinded & Sexual Assault Charges Filed”

The Notorious R.B.G.

Posted on Categories Feminism, Judges & Judicial Process, Public, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on The Notorious R.B.G.

20150103_135911-1Those of us who teach in gender and feminist studies have long been familiar with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; we regularly deal with her work as both a lawyer and as jurist. This past January, I had the honor of hearing her speak at a conference in Washington, D.C., and was awed by her. So over spring break, I decided to start reading a new book, The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, edited by Scott Dodson. I’m not that far into the book yet, but what I’ve read has only made me admire her more.

I’m far from being Justice Ginsburg’s only admirer. She has quite the following, including this woman, who had a portrait of Justice Ginsburg tattooed on her arm. One man put her 35-page dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to music. Another admirer dubbed her “The Notorious R.B.G.,” a take-off on rapper The Notorious B.I.G, and there’s a whole blog devoted to all things R.B.G. Google “Notorious R.B.G.” to find t-shirts and other merchandise. It’s a title the Justice herself seems to enjoy. (Listen to the video clip here.)

Ironically, while I was starting my book over spring break, Justice Ginsburg celebrated her 82nd birthday. She seems in no way ready to step down from the court. After all, she reminds us, Justice John Paul Stevens served until he was 90. In honor of her birthday, one site gathered some of her best quotes. My favorite: “People ask me sometimes . . . When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is: When there are nine.”

Wouldn’t have expected anything less from her.

The Other “F” Word: Feminist

Posted on Categories Feminism, Public3 Comments on The Other “F” Word: Feminist

When you ask young people today whether they are feminists, for most, even the young women, the answer is a forceful, assertive, “No!” In the last several decades, that word has taken on a negative—vehemently negative —connotation. Apparently, in this negative view, to be a feminist is be a bra-burning, man-hating lesbian.

But being a feminist does not mean those things. Being a feminist simply means that you believe women have equal rights—socially, politically, legally, economically. While it’s true that there are different strains of feminism, each with their different ideologies and some more radical than others, feminism at its base is simply about equality. And people of both genders tend to agree with equality. Continue reading “The Other “F” Word: Feminist”

The Gender Wage Gap and Equal Pay Day

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Feminism, Public5 Comments on The Gender Wage Gap and Equal Pay Day

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. Continue reading “The Gender Wage Gap and Equal Pay Day”

Guide to Public Speaking for Girl Lawyers

Posted on Categories Feminism, Legal Practice, Public2 Comments on Guide to Public Speaking for Girl Lawyers

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. Continue reading “Guide to Public Speaking for Girl Lawyers”

Toddlers, Tiaras and the Law

Posted on Categories Feminism, International Law & Diplomacy, Popular Culture & Law, PublicLeave a comment» on Toddlers, Tiaras and the Law

“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. Continue reading “Toddlers, Tiaras and the Law”

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

Posted on Categories Feminism, Popular Culture & Law, Public2 Comments on Adam’s Rib as an Historical Document: The Plight of Women Lawyers in the 1940s

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.

In 1940, there were only 4,447 female attorneys in the United States, at least as identified by the United States Census. As such, these “Portias” accounted for only 2.4% of all lawyers. By 1950, the number of women lawyers had risen by almost 50%, to a total of 6,348, which amounted to 3.5% of lawyers generally.

The number of female law students showed a similar increase during the decade. In 1940, there were just 690 female students at American Bar Association accredited law schools; in 1950, the total had nearly doubled to 1,364. Of course, the number of women lawyers remained quite small, but for a few years during the middle of the decade, woman seemed poised to play a far more significant role in the profession than they had in the prewar world.

The massive military call up of American males after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, created an immediate void in American law schools. As enrollments declined precipitously, a number of ambitious women were able to take advantage of the sudden need for students. By 1942, the percentage of law students who were female had jumped from 4.35% of all law students just two years earlier to 11.7%. By 1943, the percentage had increased to 21.9%.

While it is true that much of the percentage increase was the result of the departure of male students which made for a much smaller denominator, the number of female students at ABA-accredited law schools exceeded 1,000 for the first time in 1943. By 1947, the number of was over 1400.

The War also created new opportunities in the workplace, especially in corporate law firms in major cities which faced a serious shortage of lawyers. Many Wall Street firms began employing women attorneys for the first time after a year of scrambling to find adequate substitutes for male lawyers drafted into service.

For example, the New York firm of Cahill Gordon hired its first female associate in 1943, and Shearman & Sterling followed suit in 1944. Meanwhile, the previously all-male bastion of Sullivan & Cromwell employed nine female associates between 1942 and the end of the War. The official historian of Simpson, Thatcher and Bartlett spoke for a number of Wall Street law firms when he later reported that Simpson, Thatcher had suffered fewer disruptions during World War II than during the much-shorter World War I because “there were women lawyers who could be recruited to do some of the work formerly handled by male associates who had joined the armed forces.”

While no other woman was so “honored” during the decade, in 1944, the Wall Street firm of Spence, Hotchkiss, Parker & Duryee even promoted Russian-born female associate Soia Mentschikoff to partner, making her the first female partner in a Wall Street firm. (Mentschikoff was later the first woman faculty member at the law schools of both Harvard and the University of Chicago.)

In Boston, the silk stocking firm of Ropes & Gray responded to the lawyer shortage by promoting two female secretaries in its probate department, both of whom were law school graduates, to the status of associate attorney. Undoubtedly, women lawyers made inroads as well in prosecutor’s offices, small firms, and as solo practitioners. Encountering a female attorney was a much more likely event in 1944 and 1945, than ever before in United States history.

As it turned out, the “triumph” of women lawyers was short-lived. Returning lawyer-G.I.’s were given their old jobs back after 1945, and by 1947, law schools were again turning out droves of male attorneys, many of whom had funded law school under the GI Bill. In response, women lawyers were often demoted, or frequently let go altogether.

By 1949, when Adam’s Rib debuted, lawyers like Katharine Hepburn’s character Amanda Bonner were already disappearing from the scene. Moreover, while the end of the war did not bring about an immediate decline in the number of female law students, which reached 1405 in 1947, by the next year their number did begin to shrink. Although the total number of female law students rebounded slightly in the early 1950’s, it would decline again and would remain between 1100 and 1500 students in any given year until it finally exceeded the latter figure in 1962. The percentage of female law students would not exceed the 1943 figure of 21.9% until 1975.

It is hard to know to know to what extent the creative parties behind Adam’s Rib were aware of the developments just described. The two screenwriters, the husband and wife team of Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon (she Harold and Maude fame three decades later), had no apparent connection to the legal profession, although as New Yorkers with business connections, they were probably aware of the increased presence of female lawyers during the 1940’s.

Director George Cukor, on the other hand, had a number of connections to the legal profession. His father, Victor Cukor, was a Hungarian Jewish immigrant who had studied law at night after arriving in the United States and was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan when George (b. 1899) was young. George Cukor himself originally intended to pursue a career in law when he enrolled in City College of New York in 1917, but after a short stint in the Army during World War I, he left college and spent the rest of his career in the theater and movies. Cukor’s knowledge of the legal profession probably had more to do with the credibility of the movie’s courtroom scenes than it did to any statement that the film might be making about the role of women lawyers.

Whatever the intentions of its creators, Adam’s Rib is clearly the signature “women lawyers” film of the 1940’s. It was not, however, the only Hollywood film of that decade to have a female lawyer as a central character. In fact, there were 14 such films, although the other 13 are all but forgotten, even though several starred well-known actresses like Eve Arden (She Couldn’t Say No, 1941); Ann Baxter (The Walls of Jericho, 1948); Rosalind Russell (Design for Scandal, 1941, and Tell It to the Judge, 1949); Myrna Loy (The Bachelor and the Bobby-soxer, 1947); and Paulette Goddard (Suddenly, It’s Spring, 1947).

In most of these films, the female lawyer characters are attractive, smart, but somewhat emotional. An interesting exception is the Roger Rogers western, Eyes of Texas (1948), where 60-year old character actress Nana Bryant plays a tough, no-nonsense western female lawyer named Hattie E. Waters, Attorney, whose primary objective is to hornswoggle her own client out of his beloved ranch, which he is using as a home for boys who lost their fathers in World War II. (This portrayal was obviously not an endorsement of the idea women lawyers.)

Although Amanda Bonner may have bested her husband Adam in Adam’s Rib, her triumph was short-lived, as it would be another three decades before female attorneys assumed the numerically significant role that they play today.

Tickling “Adam’s Rib”

Posted on Categories Feminism, Popular Culture & Law, Public1 Comment on Tickling “Adam’s Rib”

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. Continue reading “Tickling “Adam’s Rib””

Margaret Thatcher and Women in Government

Posted on Categories Election Law, Federal Law & Legal System, Feminism, International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Popular Culture & Law, Public3 Comments on Margaret Thatcher and Women in Government

“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, 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. Continue reading “Margaret Thatcher and Women in Government”

An American in Beijing: Landmark Domestic Violence Ruling in China

Posted on Categories Feminism, Human Rights, PublicLeave a comment» on An American in Beijing: Landmark Domestic Violence Ruling in China

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. Continue reading “An American in Beijing: Landmark Domestic Violence Ruling in China”

Time to Finally Pass the Equal Rights Amendment?

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Congress & Congressional Power, Constitutional Law, Feminism, Human Rights, Legal History, Public1 Comment on Time to Finally Pass the Equal Rights Amendment?

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. Continue reading “Time to Finally Pass the Equal Rights Amendment?”