Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Five law firms commended as among 100 best places to work, in part because of work-life balance policies

Here's the story, which I saw on the ABA Journal. These five major law firms recently made Fortune Magazine's list of 100 Best Places to Work. Note that one of the firms, Arnold & Porter at No. 19, made the list in part because it pays some of the health insurance premiums for lower wage earners. Others were selected on the basis of generous maternity leave policies, non-discrimination against LGBT lawyers, and concierge services, among other benefits.

The other law firms are Alston & Bird (31), Bingham McCutchen (41), Perkins Coie (55), and Nixon Peabody (66). All of these firms are also highly competitive in terms of associate pay.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Crisis for mid-career women attorneys?

The ABA Journal ran this story about a new book by Kathy Caprino, “Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose," discussing its application to female attorneys. Here's a short excerpt from the Journal article by Rachel Zahorsky:

In her book, Caprino identifies 12 crises that corporate mid-career women face, including work-life balance failures, bad or intolerable treatment at work, and a fearfulness to speak up without being rejected or punished. These issues "absolutely apply" to women in the legal profession as well, Caprino says.

Careful not to blame their male counterparts, Caprino says many female professionals are dominated at work by generally white-male competitive career models that emphasize linear career paths and the assumption that top-performing women are motivated most by money and power.

I wonder if any of you have experienced any of these . . .

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Liberation in being a flight attendant?

I suppose it is all relative . . . and this story is about Arab women. Here's an excerpt from Katherine Zoepf's story in Monday's NYT, part of the paper's Generation Faithful series. I like the comparison of these women to American women half a century ago, who also found liberation of sorts as an early wave of "stewardesses" and "air hostesses" for the likes of Pan Am and Eastern Airlines.

Here are some excerpts from Zoepf's story:

Flight attendants have become the public face of the new mobility for some young Arab women, just as they were the face of new freedoms for women in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. They have become a subject of social anxiety and fascination in much the same way.

* * *
And many say that the experience of living independently and working hard for high salaries has forever changed their ambitions and their beliefs about themselves, though it can also lead to a painful sense of alienation from their home countries and their families.
The story includes lots of information on the women's lifestyle, including its restrictions. In many ways, though, the Arab women are depicted as resembling American college students -- at least in terms of the dorm lifestyle. Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Would naming Caroline Kennedy to HRC's Senate seat be sexist?

That's what Nicholas Kristof suggests on his blog yesterday. He writes:
Caroline Kennedy strikes me as a very impressive woman with all the right priorities, such as education. But I also find it unseemly and undemocratic that she seems to have vaulted to the top of the Senate list by virtue of who her dad was. . . . Isn’t that sexist?
I'm not sure how it is (or would be) sexist . . . unless he is drawing some analogy to McCain's selection of Palin, which many argued (plausibly) was attributable almost solely to the fact that Palin was female and McCain knew he needed female voters. Also, I suppose there is the argument that because Hillary Rodham Clinton has held the seat, it has become a "woman's seat" and should be filled by another woman.

Kristof hints at both bases for the "sexist" label later in the column. He suggests that naming Kennedy would be "disrespectful of so many other women in New York politics who have worked for many years in Congress and accumulated tremendous experience and credentials." Kristof lists Carolyn Maloney, "one of the great champions of women around the world on issues ranging from sex trafficking to reproductive health" and Nita Lowey, "a formidable member of Congress with a great record of getting things done." Then, however, Kristof suggests that the sexism would be in naming Caroline Kennedy to the post "because of her father," while overlooking qualified "women who have earned their own substantial credentials."

That's an argument for which I have some appreciation, though I thought many readers' comments on the blog post made good points. Several pointed out that it would be nepotism, not sexism, to pick Kennedy on the basis of who her father was. Others were more supportive of Caroline Kennedy, with many seeing value for New York in her "star power."

Gail Collins' column today, which is titled "Ms. Kennedy," also takes up the merits of her possible appointment to the seat. She notes that Caroline Kennedy has been a very successful fund raiser for the NYC public schools, but cautions this does not necessarily make her a great political fund-raiser. Collins also observes in Caroline Kennedy a trait she shares with Hillary Clinton, and it might be seen as a female trait: being a good listener.

Collins closes with, "If Kennedy wants to succeed Clinton, she’s got every right to give it a shot." Obviously, Collins is a bit more positive than Kristof about the prospect and potential of Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Senator. Also, Collins doesn't mention sexism, perhaps because she does not see it as a force in Gov. Paterson's decision.

On a somewhat related note, I find interesting how Kennedy has presented her qualifications. Yesterday, in upstate New York, she answered a reporter's question about them this way:
“I just hope everybody understands that it is not a campaign but that I have a lifelong devotion to public service * * * I’ve written books on the Constitution and the importance of individual participation. And I’ve raised my family. I think I really could help bring change to Washington.”
Read full coverage from the NYTimes here.

Sarah Palin was often ridiculed by liberals when she invoked her experiences as a mother as a credential relevant to being an effective U.S. Vice President. I wonder if Caroline Kennedy's invocation of her role in raising three children will be viewed in the same way.

Obama names first woman to be permanent head of the S.E.C.

Word is that Mary Schapiro will be the first female to be permanent head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Here's a link to the NYT story, and here's an excerpt that highlights her exceptional credentials, including as chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. She is currently head of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
Ms. Schapiro, 53, is a former commissioner of the S.E.C. She met with Mr. Obama in recent days in Chicago, officials said, and her appointment was on the agenda during a meeting on Tuesday of Mr. Obama’s top economic advisers.

Although her appointment is not a cabinet-level position, she faces confirmation by the Senate, some of whose members have been critical of how the S.E.C. performed in overseeing the faltering investment banks this year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why men lawyers earn more than women

I just saw on ssrn.com this abstract for a paper that explores that question. Here's the abstract:
Using a dataset of survey responses from University of Michigan Law School graduates from the classes of 1970 through 1996, I find that fathers tend to receive higher salaries than non-fathers (a "daddy bonus"). In addition, mothers earn less than non-mothers (a "mommy penalty"). There is also some statistical support for the inference that there is a penalty associated purely with gender (women earning less than men, independent of parenthood), another result that is unique to the literature.

Analyzing full- or part-time status as well as work hours also suggests a key difference between women and men. Those who take part-time status are almost entirely women who take on child-rearing duties, and they reduce their work hours by an average of approximately thirty percent. These statistical results are, however, significantly less reliable because of the very small numbers of respondents (male or female) who work less than full time.
You can download the full paper, by Neil H. Buchanan, here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gender and the Obama stimulus plan

Read Linda Hirshman's important op-ed in today's NYT. Her essential argument is that the economic stimulus plan is too narrow, in part because men will be the primary beneficiaries. She makes a good case, saying that Obama's plan is reminiscent of the Eisenhower era not only because of its focus on infrastructure, but as a reflection of gender roles. Hirshman suggests that too few women will be on Obama's "road to recovery." Here is an excerpt:

Back before the feminist revolution brought women into the workplace in unprecedented numbers, this would have been more understandable. But today, women constitute about 46 percent of the labor force. And as the current downturn has worsened, their traditionally lower unemployment rate has actually risen just as fast as men’s. A just economic stimulus plan must include jobs in fields like social work and teaching, where large numbers of women work.

As Hirshman points out, women are definitely not a marginal, special interest group, and the Obama administration should make a greater effort to provide jobs for them, too.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Is this comment gendered?

I found Gail Collins' column regarding Gov. Ed Rendell's (PA) comment about Gov. Janet Napolitano (AZ) interesting in relation to stereotypes about women who don't marry -- and perhaps also those who do but do not have children. Apparently Rendell said something about Napolitano being “perfect” for homeland security “because, for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.”

Collins comments:

This seemed to be the summation of Napolitano’s qualifications.

* * *

And it sure sounded as if he was saying that single people like Napolitano exist in a state so dark and barren that the empty hours can only be filled up by guarding the nation’s borders against terrorists and preparing for the next hurricane.
Collins goes on to discuss the work of Bella DePaulo, the author of “Singled Out.” De Paulo says that "singlism" is not limited to unmarried women, but Collins suggests that single women, who comprise between 43-51% of adult women, tend to be regarded as "folks with time on their hands." As a consequence, they are asked to cover for others and do more than their share of being dutiful daughter, sister, and worker. Collins asserts that they "often wind up portrayed as vestal virgins who live only to serve their chief exectutive," and she cites Condoleeza Rice as a prime example.
As someone who was single most of her adult life (to date), I found Collins' comment really resonated with me. I know that I have shared with many fem jur classes over the years my sense that employers often took advantage of my "singledom." That is, they took advantage of my apparent lack of "real" obligations to load on the extra work, including that which involved overnight travel. The "good news" in all of this is that it permitted me to be what Joan Williams has called the "ideal worker." The (additional) bad news is that singledom is often required for women to be seen as ideal workers, whereas men are more often permitted to "have it all."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In Italy, feminism out, sexploitation in

Actually, the NPR headline was "In Italy, Feminism Out, Women as Sex Symbols In," and the story was broadcast yesterday on Morning Edition. Among the interesting facts in Sylvia Poggioli's story was that a recent poll found that "showgirl" was the number 1 role model for young girls and women in Italy. The report explores whether Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi's media empire is to blame for this big step backward for women in Italy, where a smaller proportion of members of parliament are women than in, for example, Rwanda and Burundi.

Here are some excerpts, including quotes from feminists about the Italian situation, of which one aspect is a decline in solidarity among women:
Both on public television and on networks owned by Berlusconi, who also is a media tycoon, scantily dressed women can been seen — but rarely heard — on all types of programs, from quizzes to political talk shows.
* * *

One very successful showgirl is Mara Carfagna, who left an uncertain singing career for politics. Berlusconi chose her for the slot of minister of equal opportunity — and both denied media reports that they were having an affair.

* * *

"To sell your body for a calendar, for a career, is not considered now so bad for many young women," says social scientist Elisa Manna, who has studied this issue's impact on Italian society. "This kind of attitude is connected to television, because they have this kind of model in every hour of the day."

On a more hopeful note, a journalist interviewed for the story observes that a majority of students now at Italian universities are women, and she anticipates that they might succed in breaking down Italy's "old boy network." I share her hope, though I am not optimistic if many of the them share the show girl role model.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The gift of health, the gift of reproductive control

Have you heard that Planned Parenthood of Indiana is offering gift certificates for health care, including contraception? The Associated Press explains in this story:

The group, a network of 35 clinics, decided to offer the vouchers because so many people are uninsured or are putting off health care because of prohibitive costs, said Betty Cockrum, its president. About 800,000 Indiana residents do not have health insurance, Ms. Cockrum said.

Planned Parenthood’s checkups, which include Pap tests and breast exams, typically cost $58. The vouchers can be used for those exams, medication, birth control and other services.
I think it sounds like a great idea, but opponents argue that this is a mockery of the holiday season. Hmm. I just don't see how helping someone afford a Pap test and a breast exam could possibly be a bad gift, let alone inconsistent with sentiments of the season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mothers sacrifice. What's new? But who should benefit?

The headline, "To Buy Children's Gifts, Mothers Do Without," caught my eye this morning. I thought it might tell of mothers scrimping on food budgets, maybe on gasoline or other transportation costs, or perhaps on some small indulgence for themselves --all to be sure their kids each had a present or two to open on Christmas morning. Instead, the story Stephanie Rosenbloom tells in today's NYT is really one of largess. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Come Christmas, McKenna Hunt, a gregarious little girl from Safety Harbor, Fla., will receive the play kitchen and the Elmo doll she wants. But her mother, Kristen Hunt, will go without the designer jeans she covets this season.

* * *

“I want her to be able to look back,” Ms. Hunt declared, “and say, ‘Even though they were tough times, my mom was still able to give me stuff.’ ”

The real point of Rosenbloom's story seems to be that sales of women's apparel have fallen dramatically in recent months, so I felt a bit hood-winked by the headline. The accompanying photo by Charity Beck is more consistent with the story's message of largess for the younger generation of middle-class Americans. The photo seems dissonant with the headline, however, and it makes me think that little McKenna could probably make do with a little less. I am sympathetic to the idea that Christmas is for kids, but what is McKenna learning here?

I guess I am on a bit of soap box this morning, but this seems like excessive consumerism -- even if mom isn't getting her designer jeans. Weighing on my heart and mind are the photo (above) and story about the line of folks waiting for a Thanksgiving care package at the Sacramento Food Bank and news of the record turnout at Loaves and Fishes Thanksgiving Dinner last night here in Sacramento. Read just one story here. All of us who have shelter, warm clothes on our backs, and a secure food supply should be making sacrifices this season, but not so we can instill a me-first mentality in our children. We should do it so others can eat.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Advice for Michelle Obama

Apparently it is pouring in from around the world, including some very public advice from Cherie Blair, who proffered it in her regular column for The Times (London). Like French President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni, Blair continued to work while her husband was the U.K. Prime Minister. Blair wrote in her regular column for The Times of London:

You have to learn to take the back seat, not just in public, but in private . . . When your spouse is late to put the kids to bed, or for dinner, or your plans for the weekend are turned upside down again, you simply have to accept that he had something more important to do.

Blair went on to note the irony that in this age of purported equality those married to political leaders must set aside their ambitions and be seen but not heard. Blair observes that, unlike herself, Michelle Obama will not have that option of continuing to work.

Rachel Swarns' story in today's New York Times reminds us that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the only first lady prior to Michelle Obama to have had an active career until shortly before her husband became President. I have recently recalled here responses to Hillary's becoming first lady in 1992. The only other first lady even to have an advanced degree was Laura Bush, and that degree was in the rather lower profile subject of library science. Ms. Clinton and Ms. Obama, of course, are lawyers.

Also of great interest in Swarns' story is the observation that Michelle Obama became more popular among the electorate once she quit work during her husband's campaign and fully embraced the role of "mom-in-chief."

Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of “Mommy Wars,” an anthology of essays (Random House, 2006), argued on the NPR program “Tell Me More” that Mrs. Obama had been “put in a box” and was only celebrated in the news media after she decided “to put her family first.”

In the online magazine Salon, Rebecca Traister bemoaned what she described as the “momification of Michelle Obama,” criticizing the news media’s focus on Mrs. Obama’s search for schools for her two young daughters, her fashion sense and her pledge that her No. 1 job is “to be Mom.”

Traister bemoans the lack of curiosity about Michelle as a professional, successful, independent woman who is facing some major changes in how she spends her days. Certainly, leaving work that one enjoys is a big adjustment, and Ms. Obama's last job was a $300K/year post as a Vice President at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Nevertheless, as one commentator points out, unlike most women who leave work to be a trailing spouse, Ms. Obama's career won't suffer long-term consequences. Once her husband is no longer President, her time spent in the White House will be viewed as very valuable, and she will have her pick of jobs, among them partnership at the law firm of her choice.

So, fem legal theory alums, do you have any advice for Michelle?

Btw, as of today, I'm giving Michelle Obama her own label on the blog.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What women are saying about Hillary's new role

Read Jodi Kantor's story in the New York Times here. So many parts of this story resonated with me, particularly the part where Kantor suggests that the decision HRC faced --U.S. Senator from New York vs. Secretary of State--resonated on some level with many women. One question on so many of our minds, as Kantor expressed it, was "ultimately, how well will her male boss treat her?" I especially like this bit of Kantor's story, which put it all in historical perspective:

Their case for Mrs. Clinton’s decision as feminist triumph has gone something like this: Ten years ago, she was still a first lady whose hairstyles were the subject of late-night jokes; now she will be the world’s top diplomat. She may still be in a more powerful man’s shadow, but being married to a president and working for one are worlds apart. And Mrs. Clinton is such an esteemed figure, no one will see her as a mere emissary.
I sure hope Kantor is right about the "esteemed figure" part. Hillary has earned at least that.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Required reading about Hillary . . . yes, she's back

Hillary Rodham Clinton (photo vintage 1992) is very much back in the news in recent days, mostly in relation to whether she will become the next Secretary of State. Read Gail Collins' column here, which she closes with this list of reasons why Hillary should get the job. Those reasons include the fact that Hillary might do a great job and the rather more whimsical comment that she has enough pantsuits to keep her in the Middle East for extended peace negotiations. Others include the benefit of not letting the Vice President run our foreign policy, as Dick Cheney has and that Obama could live out his team-of-rivals fantasy without naming Sarah Palin to his cabinet.

A story by Helene Cooper in today's NYT front page tells us that HRC has supporters among foreign advisers. Lots of people seem to see her would-be appointment as a win-win.

The revival of interest in Hillary and her political fortunes may be what prompted the NYT to revive this column by Anna Quindlen, who might be considered Judith Warner's predecessor. Quindlen's column was written on the occasion of Bill Clinton's election to the U.S. Presidency in 1992, and in it, Quindlen queries: "Now that we have a First Woman as educated, intelligent, superachieving and policy-savvy as her husband, what do we do with her?" In addition to sharing several reader responses, Quindlen put it all in perspective by suggesting that our responses are not Hillary as much as they are about us:

It has been about how we feel about smart women, professional women, new women. It's been about nurturing moms and working moms and what we do for love, including keeping our mouths shut. We want her to make the world safe, not only for education reform and preschool programs, but for opinionated women who want to be taken seriously.

Quindlen goes on to note that two of the terms then most associated with HRC are "hard-edged" and "headbands." If you don't get the "headbands" reference, well you'll have to do a little research for yourself; I remember all too well. As for being "hard-edged," wasn't that one of the characteristics (or characterizations?) that continued to haunt HRC as she sought the Democratic nomination for '08?

Perhaps what we saw this year with Hillary's candidacy was an example of the old adage, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps too little changed in our society between when Hillary entered the White House as first lady and when she sought to re-enter as President.

On the other hand, what did change was many women's respect for Hillary -- and it wasn't necessarily a change for the better. Between 1992 and 2008, many third-wave feminists and post-feminist women became voters. When Hillary ran for President, well, I'm afraid they just didn't get it. They didn't "get" her. They didn't appreciate her. While discussing Hillary's (near) teary moment after her defeat in the Iowa caucuses, just before the New Hampshire vote this past winter, a student in my feminist legal theory class opined that Hillary was "faking it." Seemed a mighty uncharitable presumption from a feminist, albeit a third-wave one.

In any event, I encourage you to read Quindlen's entire November 8, 1992 column here. In fact, Quindlen wrote a series of columns about Hillary in 1994. They appeared under the heading "Public and Private." You can read them here, here, and here. I love Gail Collins and Judith Warner, but I miss Anna Quindlen. A former student recently declared to me -- affectionately, I think -- "oh, Professor Pruitt, you're so second-wave." Yep, I guess I am.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dick Cavett on Palin

I can't resist directing you to Dick Cavett's column, The Wild Wordsmith from Wasilla. It's about more than Sarah Palin's way with words. It's about gender, and which gender got the best of which in the McCain-Palin pairing. He observes that Palin is still getting a great deal of media exposure, that she is everywhere on television right now, and queries why:

I suppose it will be recorded as among political history’s ironies that Palin was brought in to help John McCain. I can’t blame feminists who might draw amusement from the fact that a woman managed to both cripple the male she was supposed to help while gleaning an almost Elvis-sized following for herself. Mac loses, Sarah wins big-time was the gist of headlines.

Cavett concludes that McCain "aimed low and missed." Interesting that Cavett assumes Palin got the better of things. He may be right. On the other hand, an astute contemporary of mine was opining this week that Palin had been used by the good ole' boys and she didn't even realize it yet. Hmmmm. I'm not sure there is a clear answer on who got the better deal when McCain joined forces with Palin. Maybe the answer to that depends on whether or not you're a Palin devotee.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hillary, Sarah, and the '08 Presidential Race

NPR's "Day to Day" program did a segment today on Gender and the '08 race. Commentators discussed the benefit of having two very different women breaking through the glass ceiling. You can listen to the segment here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

Women as "canaries in the coal mines" that are large law firms

This story from today's ABA Journal online suggests that an exodus of women from Heller, Ehrman foretold the firm's collapse. Here's the lede from Deborah Weiss's story:

A former Heller Ehrman partner who spearheaded a project to retain women lawyers has been doing some thinking about why law firms dissolve.

Patricia Gillette, an employment lawyer, leaped to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe last October for what she describes as “cultural reasons.” At Heller, she founded the Opt-In Project with another lawyer in an effort to find out how to retain women lawyers. What she learned, she tells the ABA Journal, was that the problems spurring women lawyers to leave law firms were also contributing to firm implosions.

“Women were the canaries in the coal mine,” says Gillette. “What we found is that the issues that were causing women to leave law firms have become the issues that are causing young lawyers to leave large law firms, whether men or women.”

The project identified several problems with the management structure at law firms that are forcing out young lawyers unwilling to wait for the remote partnership prize, contributing to unhappiness among Baby Boomer lawyers seeking new practice options, and eroding the cohesiveness that had held firms together.

While it's never good to be the canary in the coalmine if you're the one that croaks, what is heartening about this story is that women were smart enough to get out -- and they became trendsetters on that basis.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Anti-choice initiatives lose in three states, including California

Here's an excerpt from the New York Times story regarding the South Dakota and Colorado initiatives, which both failed.

A first-of-its-kind measure in Colorado, which was defeated soundly, would have defined life as beginning at conception.

* * *

The South Dakota measure would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother.

* * *

''The lesson here is that Americans, in states across the country, clearly support women's ability to access abortion care without government interference,'' said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

I hope I am not speaking too soon on Prop. 4 in California. The Sacramento Bee is currently reporting 52.6% "no" and 47.4% "yes" on a law that would have required parental notification of a minor's abortion and a waiting period.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Here's to Kay Hagan and Jeanne Shaheen

A net gain of at least one woman in the U.S. Senate, as of this hour.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Palin and the public-private divide

According to an interview last month with an Alaska journalist, Sarah Palin sees no distinction between the public and the private. That may explain, in some small way, why she charged the state when her children traveled with her, even to events to which they were not invited and had no clear public function or purpose. Here's an excerpt from the AP story, which was in the Sacramento Bee about 10 days ago.

The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.

In all, Palin has charged the state $21,012 for her three daughters' 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights since she took office in December 2006. In some other cases, she has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.

Alaska law does not specifically address expenses for a governor's children. The law allows for payment of expenses for anyone conducting official state business.

As governor, Palin justified having the state pay for the travel of her daughters - Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; and Piper, 7 - by noting on travel forms that the girls had been invited to attend or participate in events on the governor's schedule.

But some organizers of these events said they were surprised when the Palin children showed up uninvited, or said they agreed to a request by the governor to allow the children to attend.

Several other organizers said the children merely accompanied their mother and did not participate. The trips enabled Palin, whose main state office is in the capital of Juneau, to spend more time with her children.

"She said any event she can take her kids to is an event she tries to attend," said Jennifer McCarthy, who helped organize the June 2007 Family Day Celebration picnic in Ketchikan that Piper attended with her parents.

State Finance Director Kim Garnero told The Associated Press she has not reviewed the Palins' travel expense forms, so she could not say whether the daughters' travel with their mother would meet the definition of official business.

This practice sounds a bit dodgy to me, but it does raise an issue that has crossed my mind before. For a workplace to be family-friendly, how far should it go to make travel possible -- indeed, do-able -- for employees who have children? Whether or not Palin acted properly in billing the state of Alaska for her children's travel, what accommodations and perqs should be extended to employees' children in order to keep working parents in the work place and on track in their careers? Does it make a difference if the employer is in the private sector or the public? a civil servant, the governor, or (gasp!) the Vice President?

"Elite Women Getting Older, and Better"

That NYT headline caught my eye this morning, making me momentarily hopeful. But, upon reading the accompanying story, I see the news appears to apply only to marathon runners. Sigh.

Here is an excerpt from Juliet Macur's story:
Their average age is about 33, one of the oldest groups of elite women, if not the oldest, in the history of the race, organizers said. Two-thirds are 30 or older, including the favorites Paula Radcliffe, 34, and Gete Wami, 33. Nearly half are 35 and older.
The story goes on to note that female runners like these earn six-figure fees from participating in these high profile marathons. Five of the women running in the NY Marathon this year have accumulated at least $1 million in prize money during their careers. That's impressive, but it has me wondering how much (more) the men are making.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Proposition K would legalize prostitution in San Francisco

I didn't know about Proposition K, the ballot measure that would decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco, until I read this story in the New York Times today. On both sides of this issue are feminists of different stripes. Indeed, this the de-criminalization of prostitution has been the topic of quite a few feminist legal theory papers over the years, and they've taught me a lot.

In short, those in favor of the proposition say it would empower prostitutes to unionize and will increase their safety by making it easier for them to call on law enforcement for assistance when they are threatened. One long-time advocate for prostitutes who was herself a prostitute for 35 years, Carol Leigh a/k/a Scarlot Harlot (she spoke at UC Davis this spring), had this to say:
Basically, if you feel that you’re a criminal, it can be used against you * * * It’s a really serious situation, and ending this criminalization is the only solution I see to protect these other women working now.
Another self-described "independent, in-call escort," age 22, said she "enjoyed her work" and thought Proposition K would empower prostitutes to achieve better pay and to work more safely.

The NYT gives the impression that everyone else is against Prop K, including big guns like Mayor Gavin Newsome and city D.A. Kamala D. Harris. Harris challenges the characterization of prostitution is not a victimless crime. Harris suggests, of course, that the prostitutes are among the victims, but she does not address how continuing criminalization of prostitution helps them.

If you want to read more, the Huffington Post covered the issue here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Women pay more than men for health insurance

Read Robert Pear's story in the New York Times here. An excerpt follows:
Striking new evidence has emerged of a widespread gap in the cost of health insurance, as women pay much more than men of the same age for individual insurance policies providing identical coverage, according to new data from insurance companies and online brokers.

Some insurance executives expressed surprise at the size and prevalence of the disparities, which can make a woman’s insurance cost hundreds of dollars a year more than a man’s. Women’s advocacy groups have raised concerns about the differences, and members of Congress have begun to question the justification for them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Judith Warner gives Palin her due, but not as a post-feminist ideal

Among other flattering things that Judith Warner says about Palin in her column today, Warner calls Palin "no ordinary woman." Indeed, that is the column's title. Warner quotes former congresswoman Bella Abzug who three decades ago said: “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.” Warner translates this as "women will truly have arrived when the most mediocre among us will be able to do just as well as the most mediocre of men." By this measure, Warner suggests, the Republican choice of Sarah Palin for V.P. was a more momentous event than Hillary Rodham Clinton's serious bid to be the Democratic nominee.

Here is a an excerpt that touches on a couple of gender issues:

Palin is a woman who has risen to national prominence without, apparently, even remotely being twice as good as her male competitors. * * * She is a woman who is able to not only get by but also be quickly promoted on the kinds of attributes that were once the exclusive province of unremarkable white men: rapport, the right looks or connections, an easy sort of familiarity.
Warner quotes Donny Deutsch who summed up the Palin phenomenon as “women want to be her, men want to mate with her." Deutsch labels her a "new creation" and suggests that she represents what the feminist movement hasn't understood.

Warner attributes Palin's breakthrough--that is, her success--to the fact that she threatens no one. Her closing comments are damning with faint praise, saying that even Palin's better-than-average qualities don't qualify her to be V.P.

I'm hoping Warner is right. Not only does Palin not have the qualifications to be V.P., I'm convinced that her ascension to that office would be retrograde for women in so many ways.

And now Dowd comparing Palin to Eliza Doolittle

Of course we knew Maureen Dowd would weigh in on the latest Palin controversy. Here is her column, "A Makeover with an Ugly Gloss." Dowd's main point is Palin's hypocrisy, which is at least somewhat fair given how Palin has played up her midde-class, hockey-mom, "I'm like you" credentials. Here's an excerpt from Dowd's column:

McCain advisers have been scathing about the “sexism” of critics who dismiss Sarah Palin as Caribou Barbie.

How odd then, to learn that McCain advisers have been treating their own vice presidential candidate like Valentino Barbie, dressing her up in fancy clothes and endlessly playing with her hair.
* * *

The Republicans’ attempt to make the case that Barack Obama is hoity-toity and they’re hoi polloi has fallen under the sheer weight of the stunning numbers.

Dowd goes on to provide in extraordinary detail information about the McCains' wealth and about how much money in clothing and jewelry Cindy McCain was wearing at the Republican National Convention -- something in the neighborhood of $300K.

On the other hand, as I suggested a few days ago here, I'm not sure that it's all so clear-cut. As illustrated by Hillary Clinton, as well as Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, the attention to the appearances of these women who are in the political spotlight seems to me almost unbearable. What the RNC did--with Palin's complicity, of course--reflects a harsh reality for women, which was the topic of an earlier post. As women age -- and Palin is all of 44!-- they are even more likely to be discriminated against if they don't continue to look young. In short, several factors would have made it difficult for Palin to stand up to the RNC and ask for Wal-Mart clothes and her old Wasilla hairdresser on the campaign trail-- assuming, of course, that's what she really wanted.

But there is yet another angle on Palin's makeover. As a downhome kind of gal with an accent myself, I was fascinated by this tidbit from Dowd's column. The McCain campaign hired a former actress to be Palin's voice coach for the convention. I have written here about the folksy way in which Palin expresses herself, arguing that it should not be held against her. But apparently even the RNC was holding it against her! No wonder Palin has recently been breaking free of her handlers, as covered here. She may be enjoying the new duds, hair and make-up, but all of that handling (and molding and shaping) must be very confining and, ultimately, annoying -- especially for a self-styled maverick like Palin.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More on Sarah's appearance . . . then and now

A couple of stories in today's NYT are all about Sarah. The 2d most emailed story right now features the headline, "Top Salary in McCain Camp? Palin's Makeup Stylist." Another story is "Little-Noticed College Student to Star Politician." It features the photo right, of Palin in the Miss Alaska contest in 1984.

In one sense, Palin has come a long way. In another, she clearly has not. With a $150K wardrobe and a $11K/week make-up stylist, she still seems to be pretty focused on appearance.

In fairness, society puts a lot of pressure on young women to attend to their physical appearance, and I find it credible that Palin was involved in pageants to raise scholarship money to help fund her education. But who is driving the current attention to Palin's appearance, Palin or the media? And what was Hillary Clinton's wardrobe budget? Certainly we saw quite a bit of attention directed to HRC's hair and clothing. We've also seen quite a bit of attention to what Michelle Obama wears, and to Cindy McCain's costly duds. What price might a female politician pay for not attending to these matters?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sarah's new wardrobe is all the buzz today, but what I want to know is who's watching the kids

The media is all over the cost and details of Sarah Palin's $150K wardrobe makeover today (see this), but what I have not seen covered is what the RNC is paying to educate and mind Sarah Palin's children as she campaigns across the country.

I am assuming there must be several full-time nannies to watch the younger children, who appear to be traveling with their mother. So, what's the scoop? Palin presumably is not changing most of Trig's diapers these days, nor checking Piper's and Willow's homework? Or maybe she is? And yes, I would ask the same question of a male candidate with an infant or with children who were traveling with him on the campaign trail.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Drafting women into the military?

See the bloggingheads video here.

Men love Palin!?!

Read this New York Times story about how a majority of those showing up at Palin rallies are men. According to Mark Leibovich's story, dateline Bangor, Maine, the male Palin groupies are known as Sarah Dudes. Here's an excerpt:
“You rock me out, Sarah,” yelled one man, wearing a red-checked hunting jacket as Ms. Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, strode into an airplane hangar here on Thursday. He held a homemade “Dudes for Sarah” sign and wore a National Rifle Association hat. Kenny Loggins’s “Danger Zone” blared over the loudspeakers, and the man even danced a little — yes, a guy in an N.R.A. hat dancing in a hangar, kind of a Sarah Palin rally thing.

I wonder what the attraction is.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ending impunity for rapists in the Congo

Read Jeffrey Gettleman's story in the New York Times about how international organizations are making a difference in the Congo, which United Nations officials have said has the worst sexual violence problem in the world. The story highlights the role of women's courage in speaking out about what has happened to them. Here's an excerpt:

Because of stepped-up efforts in the past nine months by international organizations and the Congolese government, rapists are no longer able to count on a culture of impunity. Of course, countless men still get away with assaulting women. But more and more are getting caught, prosecuted and put behind bars.

The full story is here.

More on (un)equal pay, this time among lawyers

A new study indicating that women lawyers earn less than men lawyers, and that women lawyer who are mothers earn even less, is being publicized on ssrn.com. The link is here, and the abstract follows:
Using a dataset of survey responses from University of Michigan Law School graduates from the classes of 1970 through 1996, I find that fathers tend to receive higher salaries than non-fathers (a "daddy bonus"). In addition, mothers earn less than non-mothers (a "mommy penalty"). There is also some statistical support for the inference that there is a penalty associated purely with gender (women earning less than men, independent of parenthood), another result that is unique to the literature.

Analyzing full- or part-time status as well as work hours also suggests a key difference between women and men. Those who take part-time status are almost entirely women who take on child-rearing duties, and they reduce their work hours by an average of approximately thirty percent. These statistical results are, however, significantly less reliable because of the very small numbers of respondents (male or female) who work less than full time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Closing the gap for equal pay"

I'm on vacation in Denver, and that is the Denver Post headline that caught my eye this morning. Read the full story here, and note the tips that are offered to women who wish to avoid being on the short end of the salary stick. (Graphic by The Denver Post, also showing the impact of earner's parental status).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Don't miss Nicholas Kristof's column: "Can this be Pro-Life?"

It is one of the most emailed stories today in the New York Times, which I hope is a sign that people care about the issues of women's health and reproductive rights.

Kristof comments on the Bush administration's policy of de-funding programs that supply condoms, oral contraceptives, and IUDs in the developing world. Here are some excerpts that quote folks commenting on what Kristof calls "reproductive-health madness":
"The irony and hypocrisy of it is that this is a bone to the self-described ‘pro-life’ movement, but it will result in deaths to women who just want to space their births,” said Dana Hovig, the chief executive of Marie Stopes International. The organization estimates that the result will be at least 157,000 additional unwanted pregnancies per year, leading to 62,000 additional abortions and 660 women dying in childbirth.
* * *

“This nearsighted maneuver will have direct and dire consequences,” a group of prominent public health experts in America declared in an open letter, adding that the action “will translate almost immediately into increased maternal death and disability.”

Another realm in which women are patronized -- or is it privileged?

Would you believe restaurants? Of course you would.

But is it a good thing or a bad thing that most restaurants follow a policy of taking women's orders first, serving their food before that of their male companions?

Read this New York Times story on the topic, and let me know what you think.

Here's an excerpt:
Although the goal in many public places and in much of public life is to treat men and women equally, most upscale restaurants haven’t reached that point.

Then again they haven’t really tried all that hard. They’ve learned that ignoring gender is risky, and often foolish, because men and women approach and respond to restaurants in different ways, looking for different things.

A broad generalization? Absolutely. It’s also nowhere near as true as it once was.

Certain musty rites — chivalrous from one perspective, chauvinistic from another — have faded or disappeared. It’s a rare restaurant that gives menus without prices to women dining with men. And most restaurants no longer steer the “ladies” toward the banquette, assuming they want to face out toward the room.

But most restaurateurs concede that women disproportionately end up there, whether by request or reflex.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Challenging gender roles in a corner of Afghanistan

Read this inspiring story in today's NYT. Here is the lede from Carlotta Gall's story:
Far away from the Taliban insurgency, in this most peaceful corner of Afghanistan, a quiet revolution is gaining pace.

Women are driving cars — a rarity in Afghanistan — working in public offices and police stations, and sitting on local councils. There is even a female governor, the first and only one in Afghanistan.

In many ways this province, Bamian, is unique. A half-dozen years of relative peace in this part of the country since the fall of the Taliban and a lessening of lawlessness and disorder have allowed women to push the boundaries here.

Most of the people in Bamian are ethnic Hazaras, Shiite Muslims who are in any case more open than most Afghans to the idea of women working outside the home.

But the changes in women’s lives here are also an enormous step for Afghanistan as a whole. And they may point the way to broader possibilities for women, eventually, if peace can be secured in this very conservative Muslim society, which has been dominated by militia commanders and warlords during the last 30 years of war.

In a country with low rankings on many indicators of social progress, women and girls are the most disadvantaged.

More than 80 percent of Afghan women are illiterate. Women’s life expectancy is only 45 years, lower than that of men, mostly because of the very high rates of death during pregnancy. Forced marriage and under-age marriage are common for girls, and only 13 percent of girls complete primary school, compared with 32 percent of boys.

The cult of war left women particularly vulnerable. For years now they have been the victims of abduction and rape. Hundreds of thousands were left war widows, mired in desperate poverty. Particularly in the last years of Taliban rule, even widows, who had no one to provide for them, were not allowed to work or leave the home unaccompanied by a male relative.

Photos by Moises Saman for the New York Times. The woman in the small photo, a civic leader in her region, is only 48 years old. The younger woman is Bamian's first female police officer.

Maureen Dowd, on the other hand . . .

tends to be a little too "catty" for me. Here is her "most emailed" column of the day. Why do I find it off-putting, when Gail Collins is not? They are both women commenting on a woman. Perhaps Collins is less personal, somehow. What is it about Dowd that I find so problematic, while clearly so many NYT readers hang on her every word? Does it have something to do with gender?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The most sensible commentary I've read so far about Palin's debate performance

I'm on vacation and not taking in as much news as usual in recent days. I did make it a priority, however, to watch the debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin on Thursday night. Like so many others in our nation, I wanted to see for myself how she performed.

My own sense is that she probably didn't change many minds. She wasn't the great embarrassment that some had expected, but I definitely thought Biden got the better of the contest. I didn't find Palin's folksiness very winsome -- at least not for or from a Vice Presidential candidate (and as those who know me wold surely agree, I'm pretty darn folksy myself). I didn't think her sentences parsed very well, let alone her paragraphs. She avoided most of the questions. Plus, of course, I disagree with her on most (possibly all?) substantive issues!

So, I've been a bit surprised that the commentators I've read in the wake of the debate, mostly in the New York Times, have been as positive as they have been about Palin's performance. Of course, a lot of the commentary -- such as here and here -- has to some extent damned with faint praise, noting the very low expectations we all had following Palin's interviews with Gibson and Couric. Then I read Gail Collins' column today. Like her male counterparts on the op-ed page, she damns with faint praise, tongue firmly in cheek with lines such as, "Palin did indeed answer each question with poise and self-confidence, reeling off a bunch of talking points that were sometimes totally unrelated to the matter at hand."

But I also liked Collins' closing observations about Palin's strategy as a politician, how she benefits from the women's movement, and what the debate meant, in some ways, for women:

Palin is, in many ways, a genuine heir to the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s, which tried to make sure that future generations of American women would grow up feeling they had every right to compete with men for all the best rewards and adventures the world had to offer. She never seems to have had a single doubt that she could accomplish whatever she set her mind to. When she got involved in politics, she used the time-honored male route of cultivating powerful mentors, then pushing them out of the way at the first possible opportunity. When she was governor, she did what very few female politicians do, and ignored all the subsidiary issues in order to put all her bets on one big policy payoff in the form of a new state energy policy.

Then, somehow, she concluded that her success in clawing her way to the top of Alaska’s modest political heap meant she was capable of running the United States.

This entire election season has been a long-running saga about the rise of women in American politics. On Thursday, it all went sour. The people boosting Palin’s triumph were not celebrating because she demonstrated that she is qualified to be president if something ever happened to John McCain. They were cheering her success in covering up her lack of knowledge about the things she would have to deal with if she wound up running the country.

Making partner as a part-timer

The ABA Journal, picking up a story from the National Law Journal, reports that more firms are specifying that part-time associates can make partner, and they are indicating some specifics on how to do so. A related story in the NLJ notes that part-time lawyer dads are still "rare birds."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Echoing that confidence theme again . . .

See this New York Times story assessing Palin's past performance in debates. (I've written before about Palin's confidence, such as here).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Have you heard about Palin's Wasilla policy of requiring rape survivors to pay for their own "rape kits"?

This has been the most emailed item in the New York Times for almost 24 hours now. While I'm deeply upset by the choice Palin made in the name of balancing Wasilla's budget, I'm pleased to see that so many NYTimes readers appreciate the significance of Palin's decision and what it says about her understanding of sexual violence and the myriad legal, personal and economic decisions at stake in pursuing criminal charges against perpetrators of these crimes.

Author Dorothy Samuels speculates that Palin's decision was driven by "outmoded attitudes and boneheaded budget cutting." Probably, but in any event I add my voice to that of Samuels in calling for Palin to explain decisions like these, particularly as Palin relies so heavily on her record in Wasilla as evidence of her ability to lead.

Pressing reprodutive freedom issues in Sacramento, and more widely in California

I heard this week on the California Report (on NPR) that recent polls show Proposition 4, which would require minors to get their parents' permission to terminate a pregnancy and also impose a waiting period, leading by 48% to 41%. If you would like to volunteer to work against Proposition 4, please contact No on Prop. 4.

As a related matter, Sacramento NOW is organizing volunteer clinic defenders to work with various Sacramento clinics who are currently under siege. Women's Health Specialists, in particular, is in need. This clinic is on the "40 days for life" calendar, which means protestors will likely be ever-present at the clinic for the next few weeks. If you can volunteer to be a clinic defender, contact the Sacramento NOW chapter.

Friday, September 26, 2008

More evidence of gender discrimination with material consequences

See this from yesterday's New York Times on what happens to the salaries of those who have sex change operations, male to female and female to male. Here's an excerpt:
You might expect that anybody who has had a sex change, or even just cross-dresses on occasion, would suffer a wage cut because of social stigmatization. Wrong, or at least partly wrong. Turns out it depends on the direction of the change: the study found that earnings for male-to-female transgender workers fell by nearly one-third after their gender transitions, but earnings for female-to-male transgender workers increased slightly.
Thanks to Sally Schwettmann, '04 for calling this to my attention.

And I thought it was just me . . .

Judith Warner's most recent post to her Domestic Disturbances column struck a very personal chord with me. It also surprised me that the phenomenon Warner describes -- the phenomenon of female insecurity, the so-called impostor syndrome (which may also afflict men)-- is as widespread as Warner suggests. Warner writes:
[O]n Tuesday afternoon when I went to The Times Web site and saw the photo of Sarah Palin with Henry Kissinger, a funny thing happened. A wave of self-recognition and sympathy washed over me.

* * *

I saw a woman fully aware that she was out of her league, scared out of her wits, hanging on for dear life.

Warner goes on to say that Palin's evident impostor syndrome may be the women that so many women relate to her. Warner also compare Palin to Elle Woods, the "Legally Blonde" character who appeared to be in over her head, but who "charms her way into Harvard Law School and takes the stodgy intellectual elitists there by storm with her Anygirl decency and non-snooty (and not-so-credible) native intelligence."

Warner asserts that many women have an "inner Elle" and that hers is manifest "every time I dress up my insecurities in a nice suit."

I saw this feeling in Palin — in a flash, on that blue couch, catty-corner to Kissinger, as her eyes pleaded for clemency from the camera. I’ll bet you anything that her admirers — the ones whose hearts really and truly swell with a sense of kinship to her — see or sense it in her, too. They know she can’t possibly do it all — the kids, the special-needs baby, the big job, the big conversations with foreign leaders. And neither could they.

The critical bit of Warner's message is that --contrary to the Elle fairy tale--people cannot "do anything" just by believing in themselves. The message is not that we should not take risks and show confidence. (I wrote earlier that this is a page we might productively borrow from Palin's book). It is that it's hard--and highly perilous--to skip too many steps in reaching our goals. Moving to the next step is stressful enough. We are going to find ourselves in over our heads from time to time -- indeed, we need to do that to grow and advance personally and professionally. The problem with Palin is not that she's in over her head per se -- it is HOW FAR she is in over her head. She's clearly drowning. Do you think she even knew enough to imagine how in over her head she would be when she said "yes" to McCain's invitation to join him on the Republican ticket? But she can hardly jump off the treadmill now . . . Yikes.

That brings me to Warner's closing paragraphs, which note the disservice Palin's selection has done to all women. Warner goes as far as to call it an act of cruelty to Palin herself.

An act of cruelty, indeed. How many women will pay the price, in one way or another, for Palin's selection? How many of us will choose not to take the sort of "next step" risks we need to take and can constructively take, and how many of us will now not be given the opportunity to take those risks, all because of the spectacle of an in-way-over-her-head Sarah Palin?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A couple of items on work-life balance

were recently posted by King Hall's own Janet Wallace, Class of 2010, on the Ms. JD blog.

Read them here and here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

14 of the 25 MacArthur Fellows for 2008 are women

Read about them here, and see the eclectic list of winners who will receive $500K each, unrestricted. Of course, we already knew women were geniuses, but it's gratifying to see so many talented individuals recognized so publicly, and with such generosity, for their contributions.

"Super-Smart Noir with a Feminist Jolt"

Who can resist a headline like that one, from NPR? I heard this book review yesterday of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, a Swedish author and activist who died in 2004. His book was a major hit in Europe, and now it's been translated into English. It sounds like a terrific read for brainy, thinking women like us.

Here's a short excerpt from the review:
The social vulnerability of women is the underlying Mystery with a capital "M" here; specifically the abuse — psychological and sexual — that's perpetrated against young and dependent women. Very late in the novel, one of our main characters, a reporter named Mikael Blomkvist, asks a serial murderer whose victims are often female emigrants to Sweden the simple question: "Why?" The monster calmly answers, "Because it's so easy."
So, on the one hand, the book presents women as victims. That's an all-too-familiar story

But there is also a female hero, "24-year-old brilliant computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander. Salander is a pierced, tattooed, painfully thin Goth with major attitude problems. She's also the gal pal you want on your side when the creeps slither out from under their rocks. * * * Salander doesn't smile, knock back boilermakers or eat moose burgers. She's not out to win friends or votes. But I'm betting that this offbeat bad girl will win a lot of readers' affections."

Friday, September 19, 2008

An important op-ed piece about women's health -- co-authored by HRC

I just saw this on the op-ed page of today's New York Times -- and then when I went online saw it is the most emailed story on nytimes.com right now. Read this for some practical information on a law change that could profoundly affect women's health and further limit their reproductive rights. Hillary's co-author on this is Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

If you oppose this proposal, you have just a few days to make your voice heard to your elected representatives.

Extraordinary story about the overt sexism endured by an early female judge

Read it here in the ABA Journal online.

Does Oprah transcend cultures?

See the story here from today's New York Times about her popularity in Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Biden a "ladies' man" we can rally 'round?

The New Republic online, dated Sept. 24, features this column about Joe Biden, holding him out as having some seriously good feminist bona fides. The author of the piece is Fred Strebeigh, whose book Equal: Women Reshape American Law is forthcoming in Feb. 2009. Strebeigh's argument is based in large part on Biden's role in relation to Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a piece of early 1990s federal legislation with various provisions aimed at better protecting women from violence. A critical part of the law was subsequently struck as unconstituional by the Supreme Court in United States v. Morrison in 2000. But that's beside the point of the story Strebeigh tells about Biden in The New Republic. Here's an excerpt:
The mostly untold story of Biden's fight to support the "Civil Rights For Women" section of VAWA provides a window into his work for women, its origins, and how the defense of women's rights fits into his political worldview. Women voters may yet find something to cheer: In fighting for the legislation, Biden showed he was willing to trust the guidance of women activists and women judges, and then to contend against fierce and mostly male resistance in Washington, particularly from the Supreme Court.

* * *

The late '80s, Biden noticed, showed a rise in violent crimes against young women. Then, in December 1989, a man walked into a university classroom in Montreal with a hunting rifle, divided the students by sex, yelled that the women were all "a bunch of feminists," and killed 14 of them. Biden's aide Ron Klain handed the Senator an article in the Los Angeles Times by a friend who had clerked with Klain the year before at the Supreme Court, Lisa Heinzerling (now professor of law at Georgetown). Heinzerling connected that murder of "feminists" to a gap in U.S. law. Federal law tracking hate crimes targeted only, she wrote, a "victim's race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation." Thus, she argued, "if a woman is beaten, raped or killed because she is a woman, this is not considered a crime of hate"--a legal loophole "welcome to no one but the misogynist."

And it closes with this vignette that relates to the Morrison case.

Standing beneath an umbrella that carried the seal of the Senate, Biden made an argument for women's equality that VAWA's defenders could not make inside the Court because the Court did not wish to hear arguments based on the Fourteenth Amendment. "Men don't choose not to take jobs" for fear of gender- motivated violence, Biden said, but "women do alter their life patterns." Then he returned to his own stake in the law--adopting a "personal is political" stance close to the heart of Biden's political values as well as much feminism. The effort to protect women against gender-based violence, he argued, "empowers my daughter and granddaughters."

The civil rights section's effort lost, however, by a vote of 5-4 in the Court after Rehnquist reportedly lobbied O'Connor for her vote. Although the rest of VAWA remained law, it had lost the part that Biden most valued--the part that strove explicitly for equality.

Read the rest here.

One thing I found of particular interest in this story was how it played up the impression that Biden's reactions to the political and legal situation re VAWA were heavily influenced by the women in his life, or more precisely, his desire to protect them. This is something I've seen occasionally in men with whom I've worked -- except my own experience has been with men who've taken positions re: opportunity in professional or employment settings based on their sense (real or imagined) of their wives and daughters in those settings. (Didn't Obama do this in Denver, when he accepted the Democratic nomination and mentioned his own daughters' futures in relation to equal pay for equal work?) I have found that men with wives who work outside the home, or who see their daughters having professional futures, are more likely to be fair to women in the work-place and to give them equal opportunity there. That has meant that (typically younger) bosses with spouses who work outside the home have often done more to advance my career than men with stay-at-home wives.

But what may be motivating Biden is slightly different. His instincts seem paternalistic. The anecdotes from the story indicate that he is motivated to change the law because he realizes his wife's and daughter's vulnerability to violence. Fair enough, I guess. Better that he would want to do what he can, via law, than to be indifferent to their vulnerability. I just find it disappointing that more men don't view ALL women's inherent dignity as a reason for law-making that serves women's interests, be they personal/physical or professional.

Thanks to Sarah Farnsworth, 07, for passing along this story from The New Republic.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Would you like to add your voice to "Women Against Sarah Palin"?

Go here, and see what other women are saying. Some of the commentary is very powerful.

If you are so moved, chime in. The email address for comments is womensaynopalin@gmail.com.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More of Judith Warner on Sarah Palin

In case you haven't seen it, Judith Warner's column/blog this week, "No Laughing Matter," is based in large part on her visit to a Sarah Palin rally in suburban Virginia. There she chatted with a number of Palin fans, one of whom called the V. P. candidate a "big step forward for women." Warner characterizes as sobering and serious her encounters there with all the different varieties of moms, e.g., hockey, soccer, home-schooling. She concludes:

“Palin Power” isn’t just about making hockey moms feel important. It’s not just about giving abortion rights opponents their due. It’s also, in obscure ways, about making yearnings come true — deep, inchoate desires about respect and service, hierarchy and family that have somehow been successfully projected onto the figure of this unlikely woman and have stuck.

Read the entire Domestic Disturbances entry here.

She's nothing if not confident. Is that a lesson we could constructively take from Palin?

I was struck by this headline from the NYT today: "In First Big Interview, Palin says 'I'm Ready.'" Here's an excerpt from the story about Charles Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin, which aired last night on ABC:

“I’m ready,” Ms. Palin answered without any hesitation in an interview with ABC News on Thursday, saying she had felt no doubt about accepting Senator John McCain’s offer to run as his vice-presidential nominee.

“I answered him yes, because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink,” Ms. Palin told her interviewer, Charles Gibson. “You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war.”

It reminded me of something I'd read earlier about Palin -- about that trip to Dallas just before Trig was born, when the gathered Republican governors were asked who among them would not be willing to serve as McCain's running mate. Palin was among those who indicated her willingness to run for V.P. That happened as she was in the 8th month of a pregnancy, a state that would give many of us pause about committing in the near future to something so small as a volunteer role in a community organization.

The NYT story goes on to report that the Gibson interview did, however, reveal chinks in Palin's armor. I didn't see the interview, but she was apparently at times "visibly nervous."

Because most women sell themselves (ourselves!) short and learn the delicate art of self promotion late in life, if ever, this may be a way in which Palin should/would/can be a role model for us. Right now, it's her only characteristic I find myself wanting to emulate. Women can benefit from taking more career risks; doing so can push us to see what more we're capable of. Is it our lack of confidence, our failure to take risks that is partly responsible for that earnings gap I wrote of in my earlier post today?

At the same time, I'm reminded by what I read of last night's Palin interview that confidence should be at least somewhat commensurate with one's capacity to deliver.

Photo of Palin and Gibson by Donna Svennevik for ABC/Getty Images.

Male lawyers earn more than their female counterparts

That's what an August report from the U.S. Census Bureau showed for 2007, according to this story in the ABA Journal online. Not a big surprise, I must say. Here's a paragraph summing up the "apples to apples" comparison:
Even when particular jobs within the legal profession were examined, women lawyers continued to lag behind their male counterparts. Women lawyers made a median of $93,600, a salary that was 77.8 percent of male lawyers’ median salary of $120,400. Female paralegal and legal assistants earned a median of $42,600, which was 93.2 percent of the $45,700 median that men earned. Female judges, magistrates and other judicial workers earned a median of $69,500, which is 64.3 percent of the median of $108,100 earned by males.
It's interesting that gap is greatest for judges, at almost 36%! The percentage of male lawyers' median pay that women lawyers earn, 77.8%, is remarkably close to the male-female income comparison across all occupations. See my earlier post here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The pipeline problem in politics

No, this is not another post about Sarah Palin and Alaska's natural resources. It is about the dearth of women and minorities in high-profile positions in state government, which in turn results in the under-representation of these groups in Statehouses -- and ultimately on the national political scene. Read the editorial about this in today's New York Times.

Are women less interested in rainmaking, or do they just underestimate its importance?

Why is the ABA Women Rainmakers Committee having such a hard time filling up its October conference for women lawyers?

About once a week for several weeks now, I've thought about writing a blog post regarding this conference for women lawyers. That is, I've been prompted periodically to think about this upcoming gathering because of frequent email reminders from the Law Practice Management Section.

I'm finally blogging about it because I'm struck by the fact that it is apparently so under-subscribed. If that is the case, it illustrates what a King Hall alum was telling me recently -- that women law students and recent law grads too often underestimate the importance of rainmaking. That is, they discount the extent to which they -- as they become more senior and certainly if they are to be made partners -- must bring in their own clients.

Most of you reading this blog aren't under serious pressure yet to attract your own clients (and some of you never will be because of the sectors in which you work), but it's never too early to start thinking about the significance of networking . . .

ADDENDUM: an email from the ABA has clarified to me that there has been a robust response to this conference and that the repeated emails are simply to clarify that space is still available.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Absolutely fascinating: "The more Venus and Mars have equal rights and similar jobs, the more their personalities seem to diverge."

Read the NYT story here. Can it be that, in more advanced and developed societies, gender roles are more highly differentiated because personalities are more highly gendered?

If so, it would provide some additional support for the notion that the public-private divide, which, while criticized, dominates much feminist analysis, is a product of historical events. See some of my thoughts on the public-private divide here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

More on Palin as Mom, and Moms in the Palin Era

NPR ran a very balanced story on the renewed "Mommy Wars" today -- renewed, that is, in the wake of Palin's selection as McCain's running mate. Listen to it here. I especially liked the point that no one is asking Barak Obama about his ability to do a good job as President, even though his young daughters are now 7 and 10. One statistic that really stood out for me: Americans still believe, by a margin of 2 to 1, that women should not work outside the home when they have young children.

Today's New York Times ran this remarkably positive front-page story about Palin's most recent pregnancy, focusing somewhat on its relation to her responsibilities as governor. The story reports on the extraordinary secrecy regarding both the pregnancy itself and the fact that an amniocentesis revealed that the baby had Down syndrome. Except for two doctors offering different opinions on the medical wisdom of Palin traveling to Texas in her 8th month, all those interviewed for the story appeared to be friends, relatives, or associates of Palin's. The three female journalists who wrote it may have tried especially hard not to sound critical (and cynical?) in reporting such a sensitive story.

Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program: Deadline October 31

The Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program (WLPPFP) at Georgetown University Law Center is now accepting applications, as is another program at Georgetown, the Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA).

Click here for more information.

The application deadline for WLPPFP, which is for lawyers from the United States, is Friday, October 31. The deadline for the LAWA Program, which is for lawyers from countries throughout Africa, is Friday, September 26.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gloria Steinem on Sarah Palin

I saw the notice of this over at Feminist Law Profs; the Steinem op-ed appears in today's Los Angeles Times. The title is "Palin: Wrong Woman, Wrong Message" and the subhead quotes from Steinem's piece: "Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger."

Steinem writes:
Here's the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president.
After labeling John McCain the "real culprit," Steinem argues that he chose Palin to curry favor with "right-wing ideologues." She continues:
Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions . . .
The entire column is well worth a read.

Don't forget that Steinem will be at UC Davis, at the Mondavi Center, on January 16, 2009.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Judith Warner on Sarah Palin

You know I've been trying not to judge . . . I've been trying oh so hard, but I cannot resist sharing this paragraph from Judith Warner's latest post on Domestic Disturbances:
Why does this woman – who to some of us seems as fake as they can come, with her delicate infant son hauled out night after night under the klieg lights and her pregnant teenage daughter shamelessly instrumentalized for political purposes — deserve, to a unique extent among political women, to rank as so “real”?
Read the rest here.

The difference between Judith Warner and me is that I don't think Sarah Palin is a fake -- or that she seems particularly fake. For her, these decisions to have her children in the public eye are as genuine as they can possibly be. I just happen to be put off by them. But Warner's right. Palin and others like her don't deserve to be seen as uniquely real. What about the rest of us?

Among Warner's other excellent points:
  • Putting Palin forward as his running mate is a "thoroughgoing humiliation for America's women" and is disrespectful of them. I would certainly agree that it is disrespectful of a great many of them.
  • Palin seems "real" because she makes it clear that she is not intimidating and "makes it clear that she's subordinate to a great man."
  • The media condescension in response to Palin's speech, the damning with faint praise by marveling that she could speak and smile at the same time.

She's selling God, family, and the small-town, working/middle class dream, but are we buying?

I watched Sarah Palin's speech last night. I feel a little guilty about it since I didn't make time to watch any speeches at the Democratic convention last week, though I caught a few on NPR during my drive time. I made time to watch Palin last night because I wanted not only to hear what she had to say (I could have gotten the content later on a transcript), but because I wanted to have the entire Palin experience, if you will. I wanted to see her, observe her as a public speaker, and hear the partisan crowd's response. Like much of the rest of the country, apparently, her selection has gotten my attention. I'm intrigued.

I have to tell you, however, that I was not impressed with the content of what Palin said, nor was I particularly impressed with how she said it. She's a fine public speaker, but not a masterful one. Of course, my response to her speech may be primarily based on my disagreement with her on many issues -- beginning with the three E's: environment, energy policy, and the economy. Sure, the convention delegates were delighting in her recitation of standard Republican platitudes, but that's all the speech was -- that and grandstanding around her role as an "average hockey mom" and P.T.A. participant. Playing up her small-business credentials based on her sister and brother-in-law having just opened a service station seemed a bit contrived to me, but as I've already acknowledged, I'm a bit biased.

The network commentator said following her speech that it is traditional for the speaker's family to come onto stage at that time, and Palin's husband, five children, and soon-to-be son-in-law were soon there surrounding her. Even to my somewhat cynical eye, they were attractive and appealing -- never mind the irresistable, "ohhhhh, isn't that sweet" vignettes of 7-year-old Piper smoothing the hair of infant Trig, which peppered NBC's coverage of Palin's speech. (Speaking of the media, did you see the front page photo in today's national print edition of the New York Times, which showed McCain greeting Bristol Palin, her fiance, Levi Johnston, and Mom Sarah? The front page of today's Sacramento Bee showed the Palin brood on stage last night after the speech, with dad Todd gazing lovingly at his 4-month-old son. Neither photo is now available online for me to post here. The point of my comments, of course, is to ask whether Palin is being pitched to us primarily as a public servant, or primarily as a Mom. There were lots of other photos of Palin that both media outlets could have whacked on thier front pages).

But if general rhetoric about God, family, and the middle-class struggle is what Palin and her party are selling as good government, I'm not buying. Don't get me wrong. I love God and family, and I have a first-hand appreciation of working class struggles. I just support different solutions than Palin's regarding how to help the middle and working classes, regardless of whether they are in conventional families.

Palin seems like a decent person with many, many talents, strong personal convictions, and a lovely family, but that doesn't mean I want her to be Vice President. I acknowledge that everyday experiences such as raising children represent a valuable skill set, but it doesn't mean that I necessarily want an "average hockey mom" to be governing the country. An extraordinary hockey mom might do the trick for me, but only if her positions on a range of critical issues were closer to my own. I fully appreciate the Palin family's middle class existence (the governor of Alaska makes only $125K, and as mayor of Wasilla she earned about half of that), but Palin has drawn from her life experiences stances with which I strongly disagree. As one commentator said today, she stands for "I've got mine, now you get yours and get out of my way."

So where does this past week's Palinmania leave us? apparently it leaves a lot of "us" preoccupied with Palin as mother -- intrigued, charmed, inspired. I share some of those feelings. But my bottom line is that I strongly disagree with a great deal of what she and McCain want for this country. And those substantive issues -- not the visceral appeal of her charming family and her middle-class, small-town background -- will determine my vote.