Gender Equity in the Classroom

It is probably not news that women do not participate to the same extent as men in the law school classroom.  Studies show that women speak less often and for shorter amounts of time than their male peers.  For example, a 1994 study of students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School  found that 1L women were significantly more likely to report that they never asked questions (67% women vs. 44% men) or volunteered in class (55% women vs. 33% men).  A 2001 survey of students at Northern Illinois University College of Law found that while 50% of men reported that they ask a question in class at least once a week, only 16% of women did.  While there are studies focusing on race, it was hard to find statistics on women of color.

This imbalance has consequences.  It obviously affects women’s educational experiences.  It can also affect their GPA if the professor opts to “bump” grades based on participation. In addition, in can hinder women’s ability to form mentoring relationships with their professors: A study at Yale found that twice as many men as women listed class participation as the way they found a mentor.

 Next blog will offer (and solicit) suggestions on ways to improve women’s participation in classroom discussions.

For those who are interested in reading more, you might try:

• Lani Guinier, Michelle Fine, Jane Balin, Ann Bartow & Deborah Lee Stachal, Becoming Gentlemen: Women’s Experience at One Ivy League Law School, 143 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1 (1994);

• Lisa A. Wilson & David H. Taylor, Surveying Gender Bias at One Midwestern Law School, 9 Am. J. Gender & Soc. Pol’y L. 251 (2001);

• Cara L. Nord, “What Is” and “What Should Be” An Empirical Study of Gender Issues at Gonzaga University School of Law, 10 Cardozo Women’s L. J. 60 (2003-2004);

• Adam Neufeld, Costs of an Outdated Pedagogy? Study on Gender at Harvard Law School, 13 Am U. J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 511 (2005);

• Sari Bashi & Maryana Iskander, Why Legal Education is Failing Women, 18 Yale J.L. & Feminism 391 (2006);

• Elizabeth Mertz, The Langauge of Law School (2007).

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