Joan Williams, Law Professor Making a Difference

There’s a must-read NYT Mag. piece on Joan Williams, who has done amazing work to restore “work/life balance” to lawyers and employees generally. As the piece notes, “in the United States today, working parents receive supports and benefits that in much of the developed world would be considered scandalously ungenerous.” Williams’s book Unbending Gender has advanced lawsuits combating “workplace discrimination because of family care-giving obligations:”

Williams argued that the growing tension between work and family was not simply a product of economic necessity. It stemmed, rather, from a marketplace structured around an increasingly outdated masculine norm: the “ideal worker” who can work full time for an entire career while enjoying “immunity from family work.” At a time when both adults in most families had come to participate in the labor force, Williams argued that this standard was unrealistic, especially for women, who remained the primary caregivers in most households.

Williams’s focus has also helped extend antidiscrimination law beyond “so-called ‘glass ceiling’ cases involving women barred from the top rungs of a handful of elite professions,” to plaintiffs who “have ranged across the occupational spectrum, from physicians to police officers to grocery clerks.” It’s good to see that a law prof can help spur the EEOC to take the problems of working parents seriously, even as some in DC are unwilling to offer the most basic supports provided by our OECD peers.

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