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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Why the (Gender and Color) Line Applies to Blogging

I'm glad to be back as a guest blogger. 

I'd like to jump right into the thick of things. More specifically, I'd like to address Dan Markel's comments and concerns regarding the lack of diversity in the blogosphere.


First of all, I should say that I am of African-American and Native American (and White) descent. 

Dan Markel opines that, “not withstanding the lack of barriers to entry in the blog marketplace, many of the better known academic law blogs, including this one... have gender imbalances . . . . Part of this problem is that legal academia still has a gender imbalance (not to mention ethnic/ racial ones too).”

I must confess that I've given a lot of thought to whether I should even respond to this comment by Dan. However, in the end, I find it imperative that I respond as a woman of color in the academy. Regardless of the potential negative results on the job market, etc. (which we have talked about ad nauseam in these blogs) I feel it is my civic and moral duty to express my opinions in regards to this matter.

First, I have to admit that I don't know why it is the case that blogs are dominated by men. And I assume these are mostly white men. However, it is my intuition that the atmosphere that plays out in elementary schools and in high schools in regards to gender imbalances in class discussion and class participation may bleed over (on a larger scale) into academic discussion and thought. 

In other words, academic women have perhaps shied away from expressing their personal views on matters in spheres such as blogging due to their unwillingness to subject themselves to criticism and negativity in a medium that is not required for tenure or promotion review.

For example, I recently told a female colleague of mine (who is, by the way, simply brilliant) that I was blogging on this site over the summer. She dutifully and silently read my blogs and comments. When I saw her during this period of blogging, she mentioned that she had been reading my blogs. And then she uttered a quiet, astounding statement -- she said something along the lines of, “I could never do that.” What did this mean? My impression was that she is utterly and completely uncomfortable with expressing her attitude and uncensored comments on a blog site to be read by colleagues on a daily basis. In other words, she is not prone or willing to subject herself to intense personal and intellectual scrutiny in such a Wild Wild West public forum, i.e. one that has not been cleansed and properly edited by editors of law reviews or faculty peers.

So, I have commented on gender and blogging, but not on race and blogging. This is a subject for another day. However, I do understand that my gender and my race are generally (and statistically) impediments to tenure at any law school in the United States. Thus, blogging may be perceived by some people of color and women as a mere roadblock to an otherwise clear pathway to promotion and tenure. However, I made a decision long ago to live my life by my own personal and spiritual creed, rather than by the world's criteria. 

So this means that I have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. So here I am. And this is who I am. 

But it’s still not easy – in fact, it is damn hard.

Posted by Marcy Peek on October 12, 2005 at 04:44 AM in Blogging | Permalink


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Tracked on Oct 12, 2005 11:24:56 AM

» Correlation, Causation and weird blogging assertions from Letters of Marque
Over on Prawfsblawg, Marcy Peek notes: I do understand that my gender and my race are generally (and statistically) impediments to tenure at any law school in the United States. One commenter, Ken, chides that correlation is not causation. And... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 12, 2005 5:59:14 PM



That seems rather nonresponsive. I wonder why you felt the need to avoid answering the question. ;-)

Posted by: Ken | Oct 13, 2005 12:50:31 AM


I hardly disagree with the proposition, just the tone.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Oct 12, 2005 11:28:45 PM


Only because Marcy was suggesting something that sounded false, and I thought it was helpful to correct a misimpression. The even more interesting question is, why do you feel the need to question the motives of commenters that you think you disagree with?

Posted by: Ken | Oct 12, 2005 10:18:06 PM

What I want to know is why Ken felt the need to chide Marcy -- who clearly knows the difference between correlation and causation, for heaven's sakes -- about basic logic in the manner displayed.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Oct 12, 2005 10:11:33 PM

I started to type out a comment, but then it quickly got too long. So I've posted it at http://blog.qiken.org/archives/2005/10/correlation_cau.html instead.

To sum up: nobody says race causes tenure. Everyone agrees race correlates with tenure decisions. What people disagree about is the causal link between race and tenure that results in the correlation that we see.

Posted by: Heidi | Oct 12, 2005 6:03:33 PM

Thanks for the link, Marcy. I guess I'd still like to know exactly what you're claiming. I have little trouble believing that there are fewer female professors than male (seems to be a simple empirical truth), that there are fewer tenured female professors than male (ditto), etc. But the link you provided did not seem to provide support for the notion that once employed in tenure track positions, women or racial minorities stand at a relative disadvantage to equally credentialed men when it comes to P&T decisions. This is an important distinction, I think. If the problems exist at earlier thresholds, it calls for different medicine.

Also, it's interesting that the survey you cite noted a substantial age disparity among full-time university faculty as between women and men (and between whites/Asians and non-whites). I'm not sure how to read that, but one possibility is that the then-current demographics of the academy were beginning to demonstrate a trickle-down effect from policies of the 1960s-80s that were designed to increase opportunity for historically disfavored groups. Thus, more younger women and racial minorities in the academy.

Finally, I note that the survey seems to reflect a credentialing gap that I suspect does not exist in the doctrinal, tenure-track legal academy. Pretty much everyone has an impressive J.D. Leaving aside "mommy track" issues (which are important, but complex), I am intuitively skeptical that full-time, doctrinal tenure-track female law faculty of color stand at any statistically significant disadvantage relative to males or white males when it comes to P&T decisions. I could be wrong, though.

I'm not saying that the figures you've provided aren't troubling. They are. And I'm not saying that you're wrong in suggesting that from behind the veil, women of color face a far more difficult road to academic tenure than white males. I'm sure they do, and that's not a good thing. But I think the location and character of the roadblocks matter. There is no doubt that the survey you linked offers a troubling snapshot of academic demographics. It is less clear to me that it tells us much about even then-current trends.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 12, 2005 5:47:29 PM

There are many articles and stats that back up my statement that, "my gender and my race are generally (and statistically) impediments to tenure at any law school in the United States." For example, one study published in the Education Statistics Quarterly (the study is a little dated but it proves the point), at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/quarterly/Vol_2/2_2/q4-4.asp#H1, found that women and minority faculty members are less likely to be tenured or have full professorships than white male faculty members (we are also more likely to earn less in salary).

Posted by: Marcy | Oct 12, 2005 4:16:20 PM

Why so few women bloggers? ...I don't think women are less willing to subject themselves to scrutiny or negative comment. But I do think women are generally less arrogant than men, and less apt to just take it for granted that their every passing thought is important enough to share with the wide world. I'm repeatedly amazed at the pomposity and smugness of many male bloggers, whose sense of self-importance vastly exceeds their actual importance to the world. Sure, I'm over-generalizing, but don't you know more men than women like that?

Posted by: justagirl | Oct 12, 2005 3:35:35 PM

Ken: Correlation of a dependent variable on an independent variable is, of course, the _definition_ of causation. Correlation certainly doesn't imply a _lack_ of causation. One is a subset of the other.

In fact, I think being at the intersection - being a candidate "of color" (and "of gender") (both being question-begging terms: don't white candidates have a color and a race - and probably a gender?) - does in fact mean a statistically lower chance of success.

How can we tell? I'd guess statistics. Compare the input - number of applicants, to law school, for untenured positions, for tenured positions. Try to screen out the impact of subjective inputs, like "having an opinion" or "not fitting in." Then see if there's causation: does being a minority, or a woman, or a minority woman, have a positive, negative, or net-neutral effect on professional advancement?

Without having run the numbers, I'm still inclined to guess that Marcy is right.

Posted by: Eh Nonymous | Oct 12, 2005 2:32:06 PM

"However, I do understand that my gender and my race are generally (and statistically) impediments to tenure at any law school in the United States."

Be careful here: Correlation does not mean causation.

Posted by: Ken | Oct 12, 2005 12:12:28 PM

A quick, honest question: When you say that your gender and race "are generally (and statistically) impediments to tenure at any law school in the United States," what do you mean? I am completely ignorant of the literature on this issue, so I'm certainly not intending to start any fires. But assuming the truth of your statement, what is the starting point? Are females of color statistically less likely to receive tenure once they have been hired into a tenure-track job? Or are those characteristics impediments because fewer women of color are hired in the first place? I assume you're not merely talking about the current demographics of the tenured community versus the untenured, but I don't know. In any event, I'd be interested in more information.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 12, 2005 11:08:30 AM

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