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.
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