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Friday, May 27, 2011

Women in the Profession

This week brought some interesting and at least arguably conflicting news about what Justice O'Connor called Portia's Progress.  On the one hand, there was buzz about statements that women had won out in approximately 40% of the law school dean searches finalized over the last few months.  On the other, there's news that women are making up a smaller part of the entering classes of both elite law schools and law schools more generally. 

The overall decline doesn't strike me as extraordinary -- from 49.05% in 2002 to 47% in 2010 (all down from just over 50% in 1993, as indicated this really interesting chart).  But on the other hand I suppose the size of the nation's law school class is so large that even small percentage changes are significant.  But the relatively smaller enrollment percentages at the elite schools (the lowest being 42.6% at NYU) really does seem a little more striking.  I'm no statistician, but I'm not sure this imbalance is fully explained by the fact that males outnumber females in the law-school age population.

There's some commentary on the site where the post was made that suggests perceptions of women's lack of progress in the profession, but I'm curious what people here think.  Is there something going on behind these numbers?

Posted by Bill Araiza on May 27, 2011 at 05:17 PM | Permalink


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Smaller class sizes make the change less significant: the drop is due to a relatively small number of individual decisions, whereas in larger populations that kind of drop would be more statistically significant.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | May 29, 2011 2:46:28 PM

The 42.6% figure for NYU is particularly surprising for me. Back when I entered Columbia in 1991, I believe women made up less than 45% of my class, while at NYU, women made up something like 55% of the class. The conventional wisdom at the time -- i.e., what people said, whether it was true or not -- was that for those deciding between NYU and Columbia, many women greatly preferred NYU because it was perceived as being in a much safer location, whereas many men were less risk-averse about being potential crime victims. I wonder whether the flip-flop between Columbia and NYU -- the percentage of the class who are women at Columbia, at 48.5%, is actually up from 20 years ago -- has anything to do with the gentrification of Morningside Heights and the perceived enhancement of personal security that goes along with it. Meanwhile, I saw an article the other day about all the trouble they're having with crime on Christopher Street!

Posted by: Michael J.Z. Mannheimer | May 27, 2011 9:26:53 PM

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