ABA Video/Essay Competition, “Gender Diversity: Have We Solved the Problem?”

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The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession has announced its Video/Essay Competition on the topic,  “Gender Diversity: Have we solved the problem? If not, where do we go from here?”   The competition is open to law students and “young lawyers” (defined as “lawyers under 36 years old or admitted to practice for less than 5 years”).

More details are available here.   The deadline is December 31, 2008.

Will there be a Masters Division?   I guess I’m out.   But I think it is a weird question anyway.   It puzzles me in four respects.  

First, taking the question on its own terms, to  what problem does the ABA Commission refer?   Certainly the legal profession  does not have a problem of “gender diversity” per se, but rather a lack of gender diversity.  

Second, what is “gender diversity”?   Is it male/female balance?    Parity?   Is it equality?   Is it male/female proportionality?   At all levels or in leadership professions?   Could the ABA possibly be asking a more nuanced question about the lack of diversity in gender identities?   Ok, I’m dreaming.

Third, regardless of how we define “gender diversity,” what is the “problem” that feminists seek to remedy?   Formal quality, proportionality, strength in numbers    do not necessarily translate into substantively equal opportunities for women and men.  

Finally, the ABA question (“[h]ave we solved the problem”) suggests there is only one “problem.”   Head counts are crude measuring devices that signal a mulitiplicity of “problems.”   Boosting head counts is a necessary, but perhaps not sufficient, step in solving them.

-Bridget Crawford

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