The Constitutional Equality of Women

Posted on Categories Constitutional Interpretation, Feminism, International Law & Diplomacy, PublicLeave a comment» on The Constitutional Equality of Women

For young women coming of age today, their equality with men seems assured.  As youngsters they’ve played on co-ed sports teams; they’ve often been more successful than boys in school; they’ve pursued careers in previously male-dominated fields like math and science, medicine and law.  For them, women have always been able to vote, abortion has always been legal, and women have reached high places in politics.  Many probably have mothers (and fathers) who came of age during and after the second wave of feminism, believing they would raise their daughters to believe in their capacity to be equal citizens.

It might surprise some women, then, to learn that women’s equality is not guaranteed, at least not constitutionally.

Continue reading “The Constitutional Equality of Women”

Mabel Watson Raimey

Posted on Categories Feminism, Legal History, Marquette Law School, Marquette Law School History, Milwaukee, Public5 Comments on Mabel Watson Raimey

Recently a friend lent me a wonderful book, More than Petticoats: Remarkable Wisconsin Women, by Greta Anderson.* The book biographies a number of notable Wisconsin women, but the biography that stood out the most to me was of Mabel Watson Raimey.

Mabel Watson Raimey was the first African-American woman to attend Marquette University Law School. (117) She worked during the day and went to law school at night. (117) She was the first African American female lawyer in Wisconsin, entering the profession in 1927. (118)

Ms. Raimey went to law school a few years after she was fired from her job teaching elementary school in Milwaukee: she was let go on the third day of school after school officials learned of her race. (114-15) Ms. Raimey had been a distinguished student before entering the teaching profession. (116) She graduated from West Division High School at fourteen and obtained an English degree at the University of Wisconsin. (116-17)

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How Women Lawyers Avoid the Likeability v. Competence Trap

Posted on Categories Feminism, Legal Practice, Legal Scholarship, NegotiationLeave a comment» on How Women Lawyers Avoid the Likeability v. Competence Trap

In a series of recent papers, Andrea Schneider has explored the “likeabilty v. competence” trap that seems to confront many women in leadership and professional positions.  In her view, the trap is typefied by media coverage of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in the 2008 election.  Clinton was commonly portrayed as competent, but unlikeable, and Palin the reverse.

Now, Andrea has a new paper that discusses some of her own empirical research showing that women lawyers seem largely to avoid the trap, at least in negotiation settings.  She and her coauthors consider why this might be and how women lawyers might avoid the trap in other settings.  Continue reading “How Women Lawyers Avoid the Likeability v. Competence Trap”

Sykes, Sotomayor, and Women Judges

Posted on Categories Feminism, Judges & Judicial Process, Seventh Circuit, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Sykes, Sotomayor, and Women Judges

I had the opportunity last week to attend Women Judges’ Night, an event that the Association for Women Lawyers presents annually (indeed, this year’s dinner was the thirtieth such). The Hon. Diane S. Sykes, L’84, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, delivered what was billed as a keynote but was also in the nature of after-dinner remarks. The speech was a very good example of either form, for reasons related to its warmth, its willingness to take on a substantive and even somewhat contentious topic, and the speaker’s self-awareness and humor.

Judge Sykes began with a “confess[ion]”:

[T]the idea of a “Women Judges Night” has always made me vaguely uneasy. I’m uncomfortable with the implications and consequences of gender-identity politics—or any identity politics, for that matter. When we celebrate Women Judges Night every year, what is it precisely that we’re celebrating? If we’re celebrating the appointment or election of women judges just because they are women, then I think we are making a mistake about the qualities necessary in a good judge, which of course are not gender-specific. If we’re celebrating the appointment and election of women judges because they subscribe to a gender-based brand of judging, then we are making an even bigger mistake about the nature of the judicial role. I don’t think we’re celebrating either of these things, but I do think it’s important for us to be careful not to diminish the contributions of women judges by emphasizing their gender as if it had something to do with their qualifications for judicial office or has substantive significance in their work.

She would conclude with her own assessment of what the event celebrates, along the way touching upon matters from Madison to Washington, D.C.—from her former court, a majority of whose justices were in attendance (viz., Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, Justice Annette K. Ziegler, and Justice Patience D. Roggensack, the last of whom introduced Judge Sykes), to the United States Supreme Court and, in particular, last year’s confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  Continue reading “Sykes, Sotomayor, and Women Judges”

Gender Frustrations

Posted on Categories Feminism, Legal Scholarship, NegotiationLeave a comment» on Gender Frustrations

I have taken a week to think about how to blog about a session that I saw last weekend at the ABA Conference.  The session was about using movies to demonstrate gender differences in negotiation, and I went to see what teaching tools might be provided.  I was on the negotiation program track for the ABA, and had helped select this session for presentation at the conference, so I was really looking forward to it.  Instead, the session became a very good example of the challenges in teaching about gender differences in negotiation.

The session started out with slides that listed how women communicate or how women negotiate.  I think, in retrospect, that the speakers may have been trying to highlight some of the stereotypes about women from the 1970’s and ask whether these were still relevant but — without any introduction to what they planned to do, cites to the outdated research, or other signposting — it appeared that the speakers were presenting these comments as current and true (even if that was not their intention).  When asked what research this was based on, the speakers stated that “this is what the research shows. ”  As some in the audience continued to challenge further assertions about the research, the tone went downhill and unfortunately, rather than becoming a learning experience, became more of an argument, which continued even after the session.  All this, of course, at a dispute resolution conference. 

I wanted to unpack a few key things from this session.  Continue reading “Gender Frustrations”

Overcoming Gender Stereotypes: What Can Law Schools Do?

Posted on Categories Feminism, Legal Practice, Legal Scholarship1 Comment on Overcoming Gender Stereotypes: What Can Law Schools Do?

As Andrea Schneider observes in a new article, media coverage of the 2008 election nicely illustrates the dilemma facing many women in leadership roles: they are apt to be perceived as either competent but unlikeable (the way that Hillary Clinton was often portrayed) or likeable but incompetent (the way that Sarah Palin was often portrayed).  Andrea and her coauthors also discuss research indicating that this dilemma is not limited to the political sphere, but may be experienced by professional women in many other settings, including the practice of law.

Although the problem they discuss seems to arise from deeply rooted gender stereotypes, Andrea and her coauthors believe that educational institutions (including law schools) can help to reduce the negative effects of the stereotypes.  For instance, they suggest a number of specific exercises that can help to raise awareness among students of the persistence of gender bias, such as having students evaluate two hypothetical job applicants with identical credentials, one male and one female.

The article, coauthored with Catherine Tinsley, Sandra Cheldelin, and Emily Amanatullah, is entitled “Leadership and Lawyering Lessons From the 2008 Elections.”  It was recently published at 30 Hamline J. Pub. L. & Pol’y 581.

What Queen Esther Knew

Posted on Categories Feminism3 Comments on What Queen Esther Knew

Esther_Mordechai_PurimLast weekend I was reading an article with a the great title, “The Glass Ceiling is Kind of a Bummer”: Women’s Reflections on a Gender Development Course, which talked about how undergraduate women often, even as they are in women’s studies courses, deny the impact that sexism has had or will potentially have on their career. (For more on how to teach around this issues, see an article from the Negotiation Journal I co-authored with Cathy Tinsley, Sandy Cheldelin, and Emily Amantullah last year discussing better ways of teaching gender.) In any case, I read the glass ceiling article right before going to services to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim, and, as I was sitting listening to the story of Purim, it reminded me of a great business book written several years ago by Connie Glaser and Barbara Smalley — What Queen Esther Knew: Business Strategies from a Biblical Sage — and how Queen Esther dealt with her glass ceiling.

The story of Purim, to recap quickly, is a true story from 400 B.C. set in Persia. After King Ahasuerus becomes unhappy with his queen, he launches an empire-wide search to find his new queen. He chooses Esther, a Jewish orphan raised by her Uncle Mordechai. Continue reading “What Queen Esther Knew”

Female Supervisors Face Significant Sexual Harassment

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Sexharass Probably not a big surprise to many readers out there that female supervisors are still harassed in large numbers, but the fact that this study show that they are harassed more than non-supervisor female employees is just a little surprising to me (via MSNBC):

Female managers are 137 percent more likely to experience sexual harassment than their rank-and-file counterparts, according to a recently released study.

Even Heather McLaughlin, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota and the primary investigator on the study, was surprised by the findings.

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Brave Afghani Women Protest Law Change

Posted on Categories Feminism, Human Rights, Immigration Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric2 Comments on Brave Afghani Women Protest Law Change

Did you see this article in the New York Times this morning, about the 300 women protesting a new law that would give men in the Shiite minority community virtually complete control over the lives of their wives?  The NYT describes the law this way:

The law, approved by both houses of Parliament and signed by President Hamid Karzai, applies to the Shiite minority only, essentially giving clerics authority over intimate matters between women and men. Women here and governments and rights groups abroad have protested three parts of the law especially.

One provision makes it illegal for a woman to resist her husband’s sexual advances. A second provision requires a husband’s permission for a woman to work outside the home or go to school. And a third makes it illegal for a woman to refuse to “make herself up” or “dress up” if that is what her husband wants.

And the protest itself:

The women who protested Wednesday began their demonstration with what appeared to be a deliberately provocative act. They gathered in front of the School of the Last Prophet, a madrassa run by Ayatollah Asif Mohsini, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric. He and the scholars around him played an important role in the drafting of the new law.

“We are here to campaign for our rights,” one woman said into a loudspeaker. Then the women held their banners aloft and began to chant.

The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of students from the madrassa, most but not all of them men, poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators.

“Death to the enemies of Islam!” the counterdemonstrators cried, encircling the women. “We want Islamic law!”

The women stared ahead and kept walking.

A phalanx of police, some of them women, held the crowds apart.

As a refugee law professor, dramatic confrontations like this one always lead my thoughts back to the legal definition of “refugee,” and the absence of  “gender” among the enumerated categories of persecution.  For instance, the U.S. defines “refugee” as a person “unable or unwilling to return to . . . [his or her home] country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion . . . .” I have considered thearguments, legal and practical, against trying to add “gender” to the Refugee Convention’s definition as a separate ground.  But I think I disagree.  For that reason and so many others, it seems like time to revisit the convention and protocol that established the international definition of “refugee.”

Back to the main point, the courage of these Afghani women is inspiring. And the NYT article suggests that the law change might possibly be halted before becoming enforceable.

Cross-posted at feministlawprofs.