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.