We have heard a lot lately about women occupying less written space than men. Women write and review significantly fewer books. Women author significantly fewer articles in most major magazines. Even in the supposed cyber-utopia of Wikipedia, women author only fifteen percent of entries.
This disparity extends to student note publication. My previous research has revealed that in the three most recent volumes of the general-interest law review at the schools ranked in the “top fifteen” by U.S. News and World Report, women published 36% of all student notes. This was less than the percentage of women enrolled at those schools (47%) and less than the percentage of women who were members of the law review at those schools (40%).
My colleague Jennifer Mullins and I have now assembled a much larger data set in order to better understand the extent of the note publication disparity and to address some of the lingering questions that my previous project left unanswered. Was the disparity stable across time? How much did it differ from one school to the next? Could we draw generalizations about the institutions at which the disparity was relatively large?
Our database currently includes student notes published in the general-interest law reviews at fifty-one schools between academic years 1999-2000 and 2008-2009. The fifty-one schools were ranked in the “top fifty” by U.S. News in either the 2010 or the 2011 rankings or both (minus Harvard, which does not attribute its notes to individual authors).
The database contains 5844 student notes. Of these, 2316 were published by women (39.6%) while 3443 notes (58.9%) were published by men. We were unable to identify the gender of the authors of 85 notes — about 1.5% of the total. Taking all this into account, the split is roughly sixty-forty.
Our research shows quite a bit of variation from one school to the next. During the time period we examined, women published anywhere from 15% to nearly 60% of notes in the general-interest law reviews at individual schools. We have made available a preliminary document containing the data we’ve gathered and a graphical representation of the data at each school. I do want to emphasize that this information is preliminary: we are still in the process of soliciting review of our data from the law reviews and will, of course, correct any errors. With that caveat, the numbers do tend to show a large disparity at many schools.
We have also assembled a lot of other information: enrollment information, law review membership information, information about how law students select notes, information about how note authors select topics. We’ll make all that publicly available in due course.
But first, it’s worthwhile to pause for a moment and just think about the disparity itself in isolation. Do we care about a sixty-forty split? If so, why do we care? Does whether we care depend on what the underlying cause is? Or should the disparity trouble us regardless of the underlying cause?
I’ll address these questions in future posts.
- Nancy Leong