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Friday, August 30, 2019

Teaching leadership and addressing gender inequality

The following post is by Hannah Brenner, Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Law at California Western School of Law ([email protected]) and Renee Knake, Professor of Law and Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics at the University of Houston Law Center ([email protected]) and is sponsored by West Academic.

Law schools increasingly acknowledge the importance of teaching students about leadership, many offering new courses and even specializations or certificates. (A quick search reveals numerous programs launched in the past handful of years at a range of schools, including Baylor, Columbia, Elon, Michigan State, Ohio State, Santa Clara, Tennessee, and the University of Chicago, among many others—please feel free to supplement this list in the Comments.) The Association of American Law Schools recently approved a new Section on Leadership. Two years ago, Stanford Law Review devoted its annual symposium issue to the topic. Given the prominent roles lawyers often take on in their professional lives and in their communities, we believe that this training is necessary and we applaud efforts like these to better prepare our future lawyers.

At the same time, the number of women rising to leadership ranks in the legal profession does not come close to reflecting the number of women who graduate from law school. For decades, women have entered the profession in numbers equal to men, but comprise only a fraction of leadership positions in law firms, the judiciary, corporate legal departments, government, higher education, and beyond.

In part as a response to this reality, we created and taught seminars on gender, law, and leadership, collectively, over a dozen times spanning the last fifteen years at three different law schools, in an undergraduate honors college, and undergraduate women’s studies and political science department. One of our constant frustrations comes from the reality that our female students, and especially those who are women of color, do not have access to the same opportunities to put this training into practice.

As we have done previously with other scholarly projects (like our empirical Supreme Court Media Study that explored media coverage of nominees to the Court through a gendered lens) we channeled this frustration into writing a new casebook: Gender, Power, Law & Leadership. The text is designed for a semester-long course in law school and higher education classrooms. In it we expose readers to intersections of gender, race, class, power, and law through both historical and contemporary works. We also explore post-feminism discrimination ignored by the modern legal system, including the glass cliff, shortlisting, emotional taxation, admin burdens, work wife syndrome, gender sidelining, imposter syndrome and other gender-based barriers in an effort to more adequately educate students about barriers that hold women, and especially minority women, back. Narratives about transformative women leaders appear throughout to educate, inspire, and mentor students. The text concludes with concrete guidance for students to consider as they pursue leadership paths, and it proposes reforms to create a world of leaders who reflect the public they serve.

It is our hope that by better educating our students about the gendered dynamics inherent in professional contexts like law, they will be better equipped to successfully navigate the pipeline to power and beyond.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 30, 2019 at 08:52 PM in Sponsored Announcements | Permalink


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