Diversity Week events continued on Tuesday, March 19th with a Luncheon hosted by the Women’s Law Caucus
that examined the declining enrollment of women in law school and the potential consequences for the law school experience, the legal profession, and gender equality.
Following a welcome from Women’s Law Caucus president Beth Steinberg, Professors Serena Williams
, Alicia Kelly
, Erin Daly
, and Jean Eggen
opened an interactive dialogue with the students in the audience about their experiences in law school. Professor Daly offered some general statistics about the declining enrollment of women in law school. One student noted that while the percentage of women enrolled at the law school was down, she was encouraged by the fact that so many of the leaders of major student organizations were women.
The discussion ranged over a number of other major topics, including an examination of whether a gender gap in legal employment has an effect on fewer women choosing to enroll in law school. The issues of family life and raising children and the extent to which those factors contribute preceded a consideration of whether other graduate programs showed a similar enrollment decline as law school. Professor Daly noted that the number of women enrolling in medical school was also down, but suggested that law school actually had an advantage in attracting women over medical schools.
“Age is not a disadvantage in law school the way it is in medical school,” she said.
The wide-ranging discussion also examined teaching styles, the competitive nature of law school, and classroom dynamics, with Professor Williams asking, “What would a good law school classroom look like?”
In discussing whether traditional law school teaching methods – in particular the Socratic method – might intimidate some student for fear of being wrong, Professor Kelly observed that perhaps the flaw was not with the method, but with the atmosphere created when professors fail to make students comfortable.
“Making mistakes is part of how you learn,” she noted.
The event concluded with a consideration of why, at a time when the percentage of women enrolled in undergraduate programs has swelled, law schools are failing to attract more female students. Several students touched on the possibility that many women are entering the workforce directly after graduating because they feel pressures to contribute economically for their families.