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Friday, April 15, 2005

White Male Blawgs & Male Predominance in the Legal Academy

A few clarifications, since we're all over the place in the comments to Ariela's questions.

First, on the question of WMBs (that's White Male Blawgs).  Brian Leiter wrote a comment to complain that I unfairly lumped him with the likes of The Right Coast, The VC, Bainbridge, etc.  He questioned: "What light does my being a "white male" shed on my similarities in blogging with Bainbridge, Volokh, Bernstein, Smith, Rappaport, etc.? None, I should have thought--at least for anyone who had read these blogs--which might have given one pause before clustering bloggers that way."  Fair enough.

In response, I commented: "Obviously anyone who reads these blogs knows that you are clearly not aligned with the right-wing echo chamber. But I think we just can't get around the fact that the blawgosphere is dominated by white men, who together, if not individually, must acknowledge that voices are missing here. Even if you are a powerful advocate for the left, it still matters that you are a white man. I could be wrong--and I hope one day gender and race don't matter." 

Now I'm getting complaints that I shouldn't be lumping the libertarians with the social conservatives.  Let me be clear: I apologize for lumping the multi-flavored conservatives and Republicans together--and I'm even more sorry for lumping Leiter's Leftism in with the motley crew of Right-thinking bloggers. 

But please don't avoid the question I was trying to raise: Is there something missing in this fun blawgosphere, when the vast majority of voices are coming from WMBs, whether from the libertarian Right, the social conservative Right, or the socialist Left?  I'm not one for "mirror representation" (in the political theory parlance), but is something awry?

Finally, this leads to the next question: why is legal academia predominantly male?  Are more men going to the AALS?  If so, why?  Obviously, academia is hard work.  But only someone who hasn't worked as a lawyer--whether for a firm, a government, or legal aid--could suggest that there aren't huge benefits to the freedom of schedule academia affords.  As a starting point, take a look at Larry Solum's tally here.  By my count (and I'm sure it is a bit off because some names are hard for me to categorize), 61% of starting law profs are men.  Given that law school graduates tend to break down closer to 50/50, I'm curious what is going on.  Any ideas?

Posted by Ethan Leib on April 15, 2005 at 09:48 AM | Permalink


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» Prawfsblawg on Women in the Legal Academy: from The Volokh Conspiracy

About half of all law students, including at top schools, are women. But most applicants for academic jobs, and most hires, are men. Why? [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 15, 2005 1:43:50 PM

» Women in the Academy and Legal Profession (Sigh) Again from Conglomerate
Prawfsblawg is throwing out highly charged questions about women in academia, and so I guess I have to take the [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 15, 2005 2:34:35 PM

» White Blawgs and Women in the Academy. from Dissemination.org
Interesting discussion on PrawfsBlawg (I know the name blows) on White Male Blawgs and Women in the Legal Academy here. The post that sparked this debate is here. I would urge interested readers to get in on the discussion there, which has generated so... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 15, 2005 2:36:51 PM


Hey! What are you doing lumping neo-libertarians with the traditional libertarian rights?!?! J/K

Posted by: JMoore | Apr 15, 2005 10:07:55 AM


I read the yesterday's blawgswarm on white male predominance in the legal academy with great interest. Here's my take, for what it's worth. I think the reason that there are fewer women in legal academia, even at the junior levels, is a three-part problem.

First, in law school, many fewer women are mentored by professors (who also tend, at this point, to be male). To generalize, women tend to be quieter in class, less self-promotional, more shy about actively seeking mentorship, less encouraged to pursue academia (due in part to above factors) and sometimes less comfortable about finding mentorship in male, as opposed to female, professors. At least that's how it was in my law school (Yale).

Second, once out of law school, women get hit by the societal and biological pressures discussed in yesterday's feminism debate. Certainly the desire to get married and have children coincide for many women with the difficulties of working and writing articles to prepare for the AALS process.

Once in the AALS process, the same pressure are doubled, if not tripled. Whether it's right or wrong, realistically it is much less common, in two career heterosexual couples, for the male to give up his career to go follow his wife to teach at Midwest U. Children complicate it even more, as the first few years of teaching are very intense (prepping for new classes plus writing), and the needs of young children still fall predominantly to the woman to meet. So that would be a third limiting factor.

Of course there are women who do it, who actively pursue their academic interests in law schools, receive mentorship, have the help of supportive husbands and families; Christine Hurt comes immediately to mind. But it's a lot less common, and society still looks askance at a couple where the woman works full-time while the man stays home with the kids.

On a personal note, I consider myself very fortunate; I had plenty of mentorship in law school, I'm teaching as a visiting prof next year while I go on AALS, and my husband (also a lawyer) is willing to move anywhere with me. No kids yet, but when we do, we are going to try to equally divide responsibilities (try being the operative word). But I sense I'm the exception, not the rule.

Posted by: Laura I Appleman | Apr 15, 2005 10:11:02 AM

I think that the issue Ethan is grappling with is whether people are better understood according to the contours of their genitalia (or skin color or ethnicity or whatever) or their actions, words, and thoughts. There is no simple answer, other than: both. It depends on the context, and even within one context, both factors are in play.

It is fair game to ask about diversity along both measures.

Also, Ethan says that because the comments are "all over the place," the earlier post requires clarification. I disagree. That the comments are indeed all over the place indicates that the earlier post was successful in generating thought, conversation, disagreement, understanding, and misunderstanding. Isn't that what we want from out bloggers?

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 15, 2005 10:14:42 AM

I have some fun with Prof. Leib's attempt to prove that he is a "properly-gender-correct husband" over at Red State Lawblog. What would the boys from Monty Python do?

Posted by: Rick Duncan | Apr 15, 2005 11:02:05 AM

Two facts are pertinent:

1. According to the AALS's data, male applicants consistently outnumber female applicants by more than 2-to-1.

2. For all years tabulated, the average success rate for female applicants was 13.9%, compared to a success rate of 11.3%.

Without controlling for quality, of course, these overall stats on the success rate are fairly meaningless -- there could still be a bias against female applicants (i.e., perhaps many the male applicants weren't even qualified in the first place).

Posted by: Stuart Buck | Apr 15, 2005 11:54:44 AM

I have an odd question that I'm posting on both of these discussions. To what extent, if any, should we realize that this discussion is motivated by a bias in favor of persons or couples that raise children. I initially was going to say there's a heterosexist bias in the discussion: namely, that giving women special maternity rights (or men paternity rights) basically is a wealth transfer on the margins from gays on faculties to straights. Of course, nowadays, increasing gay families are emerging, so there's no need to assume a heterosexual bias for procreation and raising kids, so much as a bias for raising kids simpliciter. Should singles or couples who don't want kids be resentful of the suggestions here to give longer times or more leaves to the procreating types?
Or is a renunciation of "family-friendliness" something that is off the table altogether here?

Posted by: AA2 | Apr 15, 2005 12:46:12 PM

Actually, I don't think what I was saying ("give generous maternity/parental leaves)
*does* reflect or urge a "bias in favor" of those who choose to reproduce. I am urging an elimination of what are, currently, career *penalties* for those who reproduce and plan to actually spend some time bringing up their children. Since women in heterosexual relationships are more likely to be primary caregivers of young children, this penalty therefore falls more heavily on women.

I would like to live in a world where all persons are encouraged to devote significant time to loving relationships of all sorts, and where no one is penalized for attempting to have both a meaningful and successful career and loving relationships. All relationships take time -- I would be equallly delighted to see law schools, and other employers, offer leave time to faculty members of either gender and sexual orientation struggling to care for a child, a sick spouse or partner or parent or even very close friend.

All that said: I think that given the historically subordinated position of women... given that women are still undercompenstated relative to men... given that women have fewer social choices than men when it comes to "how to be a good parent," etc., it is perfectly reasonably to have a few programs geared particularly towards women.

Also, while choosing not to have children is fine (and maybe good, in an over-populated world), I think it is defensible to argue that having and caring well for children is an activity that ought to be valued socially more than it is.

Posted by: femaleprof | Apr 15, 2005 1:24:20 PM

AA2, the bias in favor of families is going to exist. There is nothing we single types can do about it. Society, both culturally and politically, puts a premium on the continuation of humanity. Family units are the underlying core components of society (in whatever form that unit takes).
FemaleProf notes that there should be greater value given to raising children in or society; she is right. While we value it and assume it is going to happen we should value and give the leeway to the people who are raising the next generation. We want healthy, well-adjusted children who will mature into adults with respect for others, respect for the law, and a thirst for learning.
If those who are currently able to raise the next generation, such as single men and women, are resentful of the respect given to family I think that it is a very selfish perception.

Posted by: Joel | Apr 15, 2005 1:57:52 PM

Isn't it potentially also an effect of time lags.

That is, it's not like most people go straight from law school grad up to law prof. Many people work, get some practice experience, clerk, work for the government, and so forth. Years down the road, they enter the academic market.

Thus, the total pool of academic market is probably skewed by the fact that, in years past, the law school graduation pool _hasn't_ been 50-50 male-female.

Or in other words, "why are new law profs (in 2005) only 40% female when new law school grads (in 2005) are 50% female" is a little like asking "why are new military hires at the level of 'general' only 40% female while new hires at the level of 'private' are 50-50?" There's bound to be some lag between point A and point B.

Posted by: Kaimi | Apr 15, 2005 2:38:51 PM

In my experience, women were less eager to write papers on their own after law school and while working as a clerk or elsewhere. Therefore, most women who would otherwise be eligible to be professors don’t have the academic credentials that would impress most committees.

Posted by: Laryr | Apr 15, 2005 3:29:22 PM

Sorry to post anonymously, but I had to tell you this. My law school has a program with the state bar that hires 10 1L's a year. This year, out of 10 hires, 8 were women. 1 of them is on academic probation. That's right. Probation with a 1.8 GPA after 1 semester. The only 1L's at my school still begging for jobs are white males.

As far as my school and the state bar association is concerned, they are trying to remedy the problem you mention, even if they have to hire women who may not even be allowed back in the fall.

Posted by: Mr X | Apr 15, 2005 11:01:49 PM

Laura: Reminder. You make $1 bil/year. You have 3 endowed law school chairs to your name. You run 6 law blogs simultaneously, comment on 12, each day. You are truly brilliant. But, you forgot something: children. You are a biologic dead end.

A year after your death, the $bil is gone. No one remembers your name nor cares about the pointless academic achievement.

Women know this. This debate underestimates their savvy. Men have little to offer the future. So they peddle puffery. Don't fall for it. Don't envy their inferior position. Don't imitate.

Posted by: SupremacyClaus | Apr 16, 2005 7:57:08 AM

I think Laura Appleman's discussion is quite on point. I am an academic scientist, not a lawyer, but a lot of the same issues are important for us, too. (Most tenure-track biologists--my field--are male, although 50% of the PhD's are earned by women.)

In order to get a tenure-track posting as a scientist, you generally need to do a couple of high-profile post-docs, which means you may pick up and move every two years for 6-7 years before finally finding a permanent slot. A friend of mine just completed this process, and the only way she was able to do it was by having her husband be a classic "trailing spouse", picking up whatever work he could find in whatever city she landed in. Now that they've found a more permanent posting, he can try to kick-start his career again, but it was definitely a sacrifice.

Most of my female colleagues with tenure are either unmarried or married after finding a permanent position; most of the men have "trailing spouse" wives who work as office managers or teachers. I suspect relatively few men are willing to be trailing spouses, so the average academic woman has to choose between flying solo until her mid-30's, or changing careers. Since academia won't make you rich, you have to do it for the fun of it--and if the other emotional penalties are too great, it isn't fun, either. Hence the leak in the pipeline, IMO.

Does this mean that women are discriminated against in academia? No, but it doesn't mean that the women don't have the intellectual firepower to make it, either. Women just usually pay a higher overall price for the same reward.

Posted by: Dictyranger | Apr 16, 2005 8:56:32 AM

I think that fundamentally, it is pretty hard to argue that women make less than men when all factors (greater leave time, less likely to sacrifice family for job, etc.) are taken into account.

Secondly, I think that it is a mistake to try to make women and men "equal". Equal means that there are no differences - a laughable idea. One of the key differences that is being run into in this case is the fact that womens' fertility declines before that of men. This is only one of the many, many differences between women and men. To isolate this difference and try to influence it to the exclusion of others is to be blind to the complexity inherent in the situation at hand.

Posted by: nordsieck | Apr 16, 2005 3:25:16 PM

Note to Stuart Buck:

There are significant flaws in the AALS hiring data. I don't have the time to get into a detailed explanation here, but basically many law schools give nontenure track people the title of Asst Prof, Assoc Prof or even Prof. They argue they do this becuase it is helpful to the people in these positions, and that is hard to dispute, but at the same time, folks who are counted as "Asst. Prof" year after year but are not tenure track tend to be women, and this makes the numbers look a lot better than they actually are in terms of the progess women have made on law faculties. I'd love to see all clinicians and LRW teachers be tenured/tenure track but to count them the same as tenured and tenure track people is to skew the statistics in a way that makes it look like women are 50% of new TENURE TRACK hires when the actual number is about half that.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Apr 16, 2005 4:10:49 PM

See also: http://www1.law.umkc.edu/Lawreview/upcoming.html

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Apr 16, 2005 4:13:58 PM

Don't worry about academic positions. Women can have them all. Worry about how many women got this:


Posted by: SupremacyClaus | Apr 17, 2005 12:56:48 AM

A stay at home dad may be the professional woman's dream, but I see no interest on the part of professional women in PAYING for a dad to stay home. A male on the marriage market candid about a desire to be Mr. Mom would never be taken seriously by women in the midst of big careers (while a woman taking that position would be attractive to many men). Similarly, few high achieving professional women send signals during courtship that their dedication to career will mean that their husband will have lots of choice about working outside the home or not. Obviously, if squirelling away the husband's Cravath draw (or whatever) allowed him to retire early and take care of the kids, great. But there is little evidence to support the theory that women are eager to break their tails at the office so their husbands can go to PTA meetings and keep house.

Posted by: AnoniProf | Apr 17, 2005 1:42:39 AM

Given the trollishness of some of the "participants" I imagine this will be my last visit/comment, but for what it is worth:

The 39% figure for female entry level hires this year seems high to me, though I recognize that with constant updating the figure is in flux. Some of the men with "possibly female" names may be getting counted as women, though. In any event, what is also quite striking is the way the top schools seem to hire men disproportionately. While Tennessee (e.g.) managed to hire three women, schools like Berkeley, Chicago, Fordham, GW, Georgia, Minnesota and NYU etc. seem to only be hiring men, and UVA hired three men and one women, it appears. Tulane seems to have managed to hire two women (as well as a man), and one out of two listed for Texas is female, while Columbia's only new entry level hire seems to be female. Overall, though, the "presigious" entry levels jobs are overwhelmingly going to men. Some women will "move up" by getting hired laterally, but that usually requires a geographic move too, which family considerations may preclude, so the pool of female "lateral possibles" is likely to be even smaller than the pool of entry level women, as of course is also true for men.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Apr 17, 2005 10:41:26 AM

Ann: I strongly second your thoughtful and excellent message. What is your view of a class action lawsuit to remedy this unfortunate discriminatory pattern of hiring and promotion by law schools?

An estimated $tril or 2 in those endowment funds. There is insufficient accountability in this racist, sexist, homophobic, speciesist country. It is time for these law schools to pay reparations for all the injuries inflicted on people of other color, of other gender, of other ability, of other IQ's, of other capacity for issue spotting, of other height, of other weight, of other species, and of other victimization.

On a personal note, I happen to be othered in all those categories. I am being bullied over my othered grades, for example, by insensitive, gradist profs.

I am extremely upset, and I do not feel safe in law school.

Posted by: SupremacyClaus | Apr 17, 2005 11:06:06 AM


You are underestimating women. My husband and I have discussed his willingness to quit his job and take care of the future child if that makes the most sense. This is one of the (many) things that I treasure about him; I certainly didn't choose my spouse primarily for his high earnings potential, and this holds true for most of the women I know. In fact, most women I know with "big careers" and equally big paychecks would be happy for their husbands/future husbands to earn less and contribute more with the children. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership, not a battle over who earns more and who "gets" to stay home with the children--at least in my view.

Posted by: femalelawprof | Apr 17, 2005 12:19:10 PM

Minor point, but a correction to Ann B'spost above: UVa has so far had two women and two men accept entry level offers this year.
But agree with the overall point.
And, for the guy who thinks women don't want stay at home dads: that sort of misses the point, doesn't it? Most adults with active emotional and intellectual lives want both to work and have a rich family life. Similarly, most such adults want to have a partner who feels the same. The goal isn't to find men who want to drop out of the workforce to raise the kids while the women slave away at the office. The goal is to have both parents have interesting, humane jobs that allow reasonable flexibility so time can also be spent with the kids-- plus, of course, decent leave while they're babies, and affordable, decent, day care available.

Posted by: bytheway | Apr 17, 2005 9:22:04 PM

In my earlier post, I made the mistake of generalizing from my own personal experience, which is probably unrepresentative. Nevertheless, I think the research--FWIW--shows that women value earning potential in mates more than men do. See David Buss (Psych., Texas): "Two universal clusters of sex differences are the desire for youth and beauty(men value more than women) and the desire for a mate who has good financial prospects and elevated social status (women value more than men)." http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/Human%20Mating%20Strategies.pdf

If this research is correct, it is to be expected that men in a consumer society like ours will on average be more committed to work. An unspoken piece of this problem (and here I _am_ generalizing from my own experience) is that professional couples want to live at least a lower-upper-middle-class lifestyle. It would be easy for two part time professionals to earn the median household income, but I haven't seen many profs in mid-life go half time, say--less time for non-work activities is traded off against higher income.

Posted by: AnoniProf | Apr 17, 2005 11:38:04 PM

AnoniProf and femalelawprof are both right: in the general population, stay-at-home dads are, perhaps, not viewed as desirable mates (being incorrectly confused with bums and couch potatoes). I've seen those same kinds of studies that AnoniProf quotes. However, I do think that in certain circles, that kind of husband is very valued (I'm not supposed to say "the law school set," but I'm talking about people with more than one post-high-school degree -- you know who you are). Moreover, I think that the choices men make (again, those who HAVE choices, economically speaking) should be the most important focus of inquiry. Articles about feminism, career, and family still tend to focus on WOMEN's choices, as in our previous thread about whether this or that wife is suffering from false consciousness when she chooses to stay home and raise kids. The discussions tend to assume Dad is at the office, and that this is not a "choice" or dilemma for him.

This is true even (especially?) of articles written by working women themselves. On Christine's excellent Conglomerate blog (http://entrepreneur.typepad.com/conglomerate/), she links to an article by a professor who tells of her harried life being a mother and a professor. When asked to lecture on the subject of how she did it all, she told a story about her daughter getting sick on the day of the professor's last class of the semester and ultimately throwing up all over Mom/Prof in the elevator, thus eliminating the possibility that Mom could just teach the class while the sick daughter watched TV quietly in the back. The point of the story was, apparently, that you can't do it all. I certainly agree.

But I have to ask: Where the hell was Daddy during this vomiting episode? Why was Professor Mom even involved in picking up the sick daughter at all? The story was depressing in its assumption that Mom/Prof had to deal with everything herself. Last year, I also got a call from daycare the morning of an important oral argument. My daughter had cocksackie virus, commonly (but not comfortingly) known as "foot and mouth disease." For those of you who are not parents, it's not as bad as it sounds (it is not the same disease that required the burning of thousands of sheep in England a few years ago, that's "hoof and mouth"), but it does get your kid kicked out of daycare for a week. When I got this call, did I panic? Did I try to figure out how I could bring my toddler to oral argument, or leave her with the boss's secretary for an hour? Did I feel guilty? No, I did not. I said to the daycare teacher, "That sounds awful. Her dad will pick her up in half an hour." I could say this with confidence because Dad was the primary parent that year. In my personal opinion, there has to be a primary parent at all times. There is no such thing (or it's really hard) to share childcare duties "equally." Someone's career has to be on the back burner. Someone has to get vomited on.

I know plenty of professional women who are happy when their spouse takes on that role, at least for a few years. Incidentally, my coclerk from that year is now working at a fancy DC appellate shop while her MBA husband continues in his role as SuperDad. I think Ted on this blog said he'll be doing the same for awhile. These men are the feminists of today. I'm not saying every man has to do this, but it shouldn't be as rare as it still is.

This change in behavior by men is a more promising solution to me than the others proposed so far on this blog, like minimizing the importance of visiting at another law school for a year or downplaying the role of academic conferences. Law teaching is, and should continue to be, an "alpha" profession requiring a lot of effort, creativity, and energy. The same is true of being a litigator (my goal in life -- yes, I'm an impawster on this blawg). It simply does require long hours, travel, moving around, and so on. For prawfs and litigators who want to succeed, having a spouse who's willing to take the backseat, at least for some years, is probably crucial.

Am I too pessimistic?

Posted by: Ariela | Apr 18, 2005 3:18:09 AM

Excellent post, Ariela.

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 18, 2005 7:04:40 AM


I think that aspiring dads know that to get married and have children at all it will help to be prepared to be a breadwinner. Put another way, the focus is on women's choices because women have choices that men do not. For men (unlike women) to "choose" to de-emphasise career is a choice to increase the likelihood not that you will wind up a stay-at-home dad or a less-affluent dad (both fine choices in my opinion) but that you will never be a dad at all. Once in that situation, even if both parents are willing to reduce or stop working outside the home, when mom and dad sit down to talk about which parent or parents will take time off, often both agree that it would be best for the family and everyone in it for dad to continue full time employment.

Posted by: AnoniProf | Apr 18, 2005 3:01:43 PM

"Excellent post, Ariela. Just one thought: Maybe dad had been the victim of the vomit attack the previous time?"

I'm sorry, but these posts are really minimizing the difficulties that women face in all career tracts. There are very few women out there who are thinking, "either I stay home with the kids or my husband does." Most are thinking "either I stay home with the kids or no one does." It is still socially acceptable for a working woman to take on all the responsibilities of maintaining a household as well as handling both child and eldercare.

In countries like Spain, Italy and Japan, birth rates are plummeting because women are starting to realize that as working women they're still responsible for taking care of everything in the home. So in couples where both spouses work, the woman comes home from her 40 hrs/week job and does another unpaid 40 hrs/week on all of her "traditional duties" while her husband sits on his butt and expects to be served. These women just don't think it's worth it so they get divorces or refuse to have more children. Spain thinks this is such a big problem that they just passed a law requiring men to take part in child/elder care and housework.

So the question isn't really, do women want to work in acadmia/other high paying highly stressful field? The question is whether women have to make a choice between working in said field or having kids. Men don't have to make this choice - they can assume that their wives will take care of the kids. Men can have it all. Women, on the whole, can't.

Posted by: rivki | Apr 18, 2005 3:27:59 PM

The Black male high school graduation rate from the Indianapolis Public Schools last year was 19%.

It's difficult for me to get too worked up about the hardships of adult female lawyers in the academy.

Posted by: Mr. Y | Oct 30, 2008 9:37:28 PM

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