Is an all-female Supreme Court in the near future?

Sadly, despite Justice Ginsburg’s hopes, I say probably not. And this is actually one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written for the Guardian (the ensuing comment section also suggests that readers hate it, so there’s that). A (big) section of the piece:

Unfortunately, an all-female supreme court is a long ways off. And not because women aren’t just as smart as men, don’t achieve as highly or aren’t as ambitious. But because, socially, we set men up to succeed and set women up to fail.

Law school graduation rates between men and women are roughly equal, and that’s been the case for two decades now. The number of female first-year associates at law firms is roughly equal to the number of male associates. But as attorneys’ careers progress, the number of female lawyers become fewer.

Women account for just under 20% of law firm partners, and only 15% of equity partners. They serve on fewer influential committees, and account for 19% of general counsel positions at Fortune 500 companies. Women of color fare even worse – they’re only 2% of law firm partners.

As a former attorney at a law firm, I saw how this works firsthand. I sat in on what felt like hundreds of panels and discussion groups on “work-life balance” (not to mention reading the hundreds of news articles on “having it all” concluding that women can’t). And in all of those meetings – and in all of those articles – the only people discussing and being discussed were women.

Even online, the conversations are largely in women’s spaces: talking about what women can or should do differently, or what institutional changes need to be made so that women can work – according to the Mitt Romney model – with enough flexibility to go home early to cook dinner for their husbands and children. The answer seemed to always be, “Well, no one can have it all” and “we all make the choices that work best for us.”

But that’s not true. If “having it all” means having a successful and fulfilling career while being an involved parent, plenty of men actually do have it all. So do many women. And while we might make the choices that work best for us, the universe in which we make those choices is awfully accommodating to men, and forces women to make the harder (and often more financially ruinous) decisions.

Consider, for example, the fact that only 44% of married male lawyers have a spouse who is employed full-time. That means that more than half of male lawyers have a person at home who can dedicate significant amounts of time to taking care of every aspect of the couples’ out-of-work life: housekeeping, childcare, home finances, vacation-planning, social calendaring. Female lawyers, by contrast, are overwhelmingly married to partners who have full-time jobs.

It’s a whole lot easier to be the kind of employee who works 16-hour days and dedicates your life to your job when that’s the only thing you actually have to worry about – because you have a spouse who takes care of all the rest.

Even in marriages where both partners work, men do significantly less childcare and housework. Married women with children do almost an hour of housework every day. Married men with children? Fourteen minutes.

And while men today spend more time with their children than ever before, married women who work full-time and have children spend almost twice as much time with those children as married working men do. Married employed mothers are also more likely to spend time with their kids at all – 72% of them say they care for their children on an average day, compared to just half of married working fathers.

It’s not just the number of hours put in at home; it’s the fact that men are advantaged simply by virtue of existing as men. Men are seen as more likeable, more competent and more hireable, so they’re paid more, treated better by their peers, are more likely to be mentored and generally handed a slew of unseen (and unearned) advantages.

Consider the likeability gap, which Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg emphasized in her Ted talk and has been discussing ever since: the fact that as men get more successful, they’re more well-liked, and as women are more successful, they’re liked less. It’s a problem on two levels. Hard-working women are perceived as bitchy and difficult to work with, which stands in the way of promotions and professional success. Second, women – who are socially groomed to be accommodating and nice – undermine their own success by putting likeability ahead of ambition. As Jessica Valenti highlights in the Nation this week:

“[T]he implications of likeability are long-lasting and serious – women adjust their behavior to be likeable and as a result have less power in the world.”

Women are also simply perceived as less competent. In a recent study, researchers submitted student applications for laboratory manager positions. Their findings revealed that:

“Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant.”

So, simply by virtue of being a man, you’re seen as more hireable, more intelligent and more effective at your job.

And then, there’s mentorship. The small number of female law firm partners are already stretched thin. At least in my experience, they tended to sit on more firm committees (if not the most powerful ones) than the average male partner; they were in the “women’s groups”; and they worked the same long hours as the male partners. They were the ones who always seemed to be in charge of things like ordering the food for client and department meetings. They often had kids, and were pulled by all the life stuff that comes with having kids and no stay-at-home or part-time employed spouse, in contrast to many of the male partners.

The small number of female partners were also on the hook for mentoring the female half of the first- and second-year associate class. So, while there were tons of male partners around to mentor the young male lawyers, there were just a few female partners to mentor the same number of young women. The result, of course, is that younger female associates aren’t mentored as much or as effectively as men. And female partners, again, feel as though they’re failing or not doing enough.

Of course, male partners can be mentors of young women, too, and there are some who go out of their way to do so – but not very many. More often, they mentor the people who they just “happen” to have more in common with: young white men who are already perceived as being more competent than their female peers. I’ve watched my male law school peers get invited to exclusive social clubs by their male partner mentors, be explicitly groomed for partnership, go on important client dinners and play squash with the most senior men in the firm, while young women saw few of those advantages and ended up leaving for other jobs, or no job at all.

All of this creates a perfect storm for women to leave (or be pushed out of) high-paying legal jobs, while men are fast-tracked to success. And the media narrative reduces it to women’s inability to “have it all”, or women “choosing” to opt out. It’s not much of a choice, though, when one half of the population is repeatedly given a leg up, while the other half is slapped down, at every turn.

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94 comments for “Is an all-female Supreme Court in the near future?

  1. rain
    December 3, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Bravo, Jill.

  2. TomSims
    December 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    An all female Supreme Court? Wouldn’t that make for a matriarchy?

    • December 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm


    • December 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      Do you even know what a matriarchy is?

    • December 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      No. Also, I think you’re old enough by now to open a fucking dictionary, you fucking twit.

      Seriously, Jill, at what point does this guy reach troll status? Just seeing his comments is enough to piss me off lately.

    • yes
      December 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      It wouldn’t make for a matriarchy. It would be incredibly wrong, but your word choice is poor.

      • Clarissa
        December 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm

        Incredibly wrong because….?
        I’m kind of interested what other fields you’d apply this assessment to in terms of how employee genders balance out.

      • yes
        December 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm

        I generally dislike any situation where people in positions of incredible power are entirely or disproportionately of a single gender/race/etc. For instance, congress’ demographics are bullshit.

        And I’m afraid I can’t explain to you why I think a single-sex supreme court is inherently wrong beyond that.

      • Clarissa
        December 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm

        If we had an all-female Supreme Court right now, we’d still live in a patriarchal society. It wouldn’t equate to female supremacy and would not produce inequality in favor of women.

        It may, eventually, in the distant future, lead to that, if it continued unabated long enough.

        But there is hardly any actual danger of that happening so, in the context of today, now, the present and the near future, I’d say the prospect of an all-female Supreme Court is actually a GOOD thing. Even if unlikely.

    • Steve
      December 4, 2012 at 3:31 am

      Men fear matriarchy not because of how bad it might be but because of how good.

      But don’t worry tom, matriarchy is probably never going to happen and an all female supreme court is highly unlikely. Although you might see an all male one. Well, you have in the past.

  3. December 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I think whether the Supreme Court is all-male or all-female is unimportant; all that matters to me is that equality of opportunity exists. Perhaps I’m missing something here, but it’s a little odd in my view to be concerned about whether it is all-female.

    Anyway, good article. I just wish the comments weren’t so shitty – as they almost always are. Today I learned that asking men to check their privilege and not subordinate their wives constitutes bias against men.

    • Clarissa
      December 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      mxe354, the point of the article is that equality of opportunity DOES NOT exist. To illustrate that, how easy is it to see an all-male Supreme Court vs an all-female one? The former has happened frequently, the latter never has.
      And sympathies on asking male colleagues to check their privilege. I recently had the same experience.

      • December 4, 2012 at 12:01 am

        mxe354, the point of the article is that equality of opportunity DOES NOT exist. To illustrate that, how easy is it to see an all-male Supreme Court vs an all-female one? The former has happened frequently, the latter never has.

        Ah, that’s right. I guess that flew over my head.

  4. December 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Good article Jill. It would be ideal if we had an all-female Supreme Court someday.

    If you have a moment, could you look at this link
    and vote at

    • tomek
      December 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Good article Jill. It would be ideal if we had an all-female Supreme Court someday.

      why this be ideal? not try to be rude, but why?

      • December 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm

        totally succeed to be rude tho

      • Clarissa
        December 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm

        On the off-chance you’re not trolling—it would be ideal because it would illustrate that, in this field, women are given the same opportunities as men. As I mentioned in a previous comment, contrast how frequently there has been an all-male Supreme Court with the fact that there has NEVER been an all-female Supreme Court. It’s ideal for the sake of equality progressing.

      • yes
        December 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm

        That’s not how equality works, even a little. That’s how inequality works. It won’t happen because the kind of systemic injustice that has lead to an all male court throughout most of its history probably won’t turn around and disenfranchise men in the same way. And that’s awesome. It would just be nice to see a trend towards equality continue.

      • Clarissa
        December 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm

        But it would just as easily privilege men to dominate the Supreme Court again in the future. But apparently, that is fine. Certainly, it is popularly thought to be just fine.

      • yes
        December 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm

        I agree that an all-male supreme court is more likely than an all-female one. I have a problem with both, though. You have a problem with one, and consider the other ideal.

      • Clarissa
        December 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm

        Of course the other is ideal—it’s never happened. It would radically change how people viewed the Supreme Court. You seem to imagine I’m proposing it’s ideal as a permanent solution for some reason. I’m not. That is a situation I agree would be markedly unequal and undesirable. However, this configuration happening a few times would be refreshing, challenging to entrenched sexism and overall beneficial towards equality.

      • Steve
        December 5, 2012 at 7:41 pm

        The ideal would be to have the best people for the job in the positions. If they all happened to be female then that would be ideal. I don’t believe in equality for the sake of equality. Women do tend to make better leaders then men so I think an all female supreme court would probably be closer to the ideal then an all male one.

      • Clarissa
        December 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm

        Okay. I thought that implication was there but have no problem with you wanting to be more specific.

      • tomek
        December 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm

        wow off come glove and out come female supremacy statement

      • Steve
        December 6, 2012 at 3:45 am

        Well the worst dictators in history have all been men, haven’t they? So should I be sorry if I feel safer with women in power and think that they might be better leaders? Of course there have not been as many female leaders and that is because men have oppressed women throughout most history. But I guess I should just ignore these facts and pretend that men and women have been equal when it comes to power and oppression.

  5. EG
    December 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    This is a great piece. I really like how you talk about issues of likeability and mentorship. I have one quibble. When you say that

    If “having it all” means having a successful and fulfilling career while being an involved parent, plenty of men actually do have it all.

    I agree; men who take time to care for their children during the workday are good fathers, while women who do so are unreliable workers. But the ensuing discussion is about men who don’t seem to be involved parents at all. They work 16-hour days, they aren’t as involved in child-raising, etc. But men aren’t made to feel guilty about that in the same way (although, personally, I think they’re missing out in a big way, and as a child who did not get to see her father frequently, I certainly didn’t like it).

    Anyway, I really like this piece.

    • (BFing)Sarah
      December 3, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      That sentence was my exact quibble. I actually know quite a few lawyers, having been one once, and I know about 6 of them that would consider themselves in a “successful and fulfilling career”–and I would note that two of those people has children. And, one of those people did leave a big firm job because, even though she was working “part-time” there so she could see her children, she was having to stay up all hours of the night to get work done. The overwhelming majority of my lawyer friends (men and women) either a) hates their jobs; b) never sees their children; or c) both. I’m sure there are people in OTHER careers that are able to be both “successful” and “fulfilled” while being involved parents, but the legal field does a shitty job of this. I think that is Jill’s point, that the legal field has to do a better job of this. But, with how things are now, those articles about how you can’t really have it all are (at least in the law) I think fairly accurate. Although I GUESS you could say my husband is an involved parent even though he works 12 or 14 hour days–sometimes 15 or 16, but not a lot. He does spend lots of time with the kids on weekends, because I work now, and he is willing to take off if I have to work unexpectedly during the week or need to go to a meeting or something. That said, he is certainly not around as much as my dad, who had a regular old 8 hour a day job. So “involved” depends on your definition, I guess.

    • (BFing)Sarah
      December 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      Also, I think that the definition of “involved parent” changes based on gender, in an unfair way. A woman who only sees her kids on weekends or for maybe an hour a night would not be considered by most as “involved.” But a man that did the same thing? I bet he would be considered “involved” if he held the kid once a week and maybe changed a poo diaper bi-monthly. The standards are very biased.

      • david
        December 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm

        for me the definition of involved parent changes with the family situation if you have a male with a full time job who still helps out with the kids when he can and is actively involved in there lives/activities on weekends and days off. I would consider him just as “involved” as a mother who maybe works 30 hours a week and spends twice as much time with the kids.

      • Donna L
        December 3, 2012 at 9:19 pm

        I would consider him just as “involved” as a mother who maybe works 30 hours a week and spends twice as much time with the kids.

        Maybe you would, but, fair or not, his children wouldn’t.

      • EG
        December 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm

        You’d be incorrect, however. There may be very good reasons that he isn’t as involved. But he still wouldn’t be as involved.

      • (BFing)Sarah
        December 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm

        Hyperbole aside, the fact remains that many of the dads I know rarely (if ever) have to deal with even the most basic parts of child-rearing (like putting an infant to bed, washing and sanitizing the bottles, finding a good daycare, putting together the gift bags for birthday parties, or packing the bags for a trip) and their partners would still consider them involved. If a woman had a hard time doing those things, needed help doing them, or refused to do them, I doubt she would be considered an involved parent. Even when BOTH partners work full time, my female full time friends do about 80% of the decision making, planning, and caring for the children. And they still feel like they don’t spend enough time with their kids, whereas their husbands feel totally involved and also can play golf, go to a bachelor party in Vegas on the weekend, or go out with friends once a week without guilt. That’s how it is where I live, at least. And its pretty progressive here in most other ways. The standards for involvement are still very gender biased, despite the lip service paid to equal parenting. Take what David said, above, for example. He specifically said a male with a full time job would still be considered involved by him if he did as much as he could with the kids even if the woman worked 30 hours and spent twice as much time. What about a woman that worked full time and hung out with her kids on weekends and holidays? Would she still be considered involved if she never saw her kids during the week? Would David still consider that same parent to be an “involved parent” if it was a woman? Maybe its different in other places, but the standards are still very unequal around here.

      • (BFing)Sarah
        December 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

        I would consider him just as “involved” as a mother who maybe works 30 hours a week and spends twice as much time with the kids.

        No. There’s a difference between “as involved as possible” and “as involved.” Someone who only spends weekends and days off with the kids is not as involved as someone who is with them twice as much. Maybe that person is as involved as they CAN BE, but they are not “as involved.” To my mind, each person has to make their own decision as to how involved they can be and want to be. Its a balance and currently women are made to feel guilty no matter where they fall on that balance and that is not right.

      • (BFing)Sarah
        December 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

        I would consider him just as “involved” as a mother who maybe works 30 hours a week and spends twice as much time with the kids.

        No. There’s a difference between “as involved as possible” and “as involved.” Someone who only spends weekends and days off with the kids is not as involved as someone who is with them twice as much. Maybe that person is as involved as they CAN BE, but they are not “as involved.” To my mind, each person has to make their own decision as to how involved they can be and want to be. Its a balance and currently women are made to feel guilty no matter where they fall on that balance and that is not right.

      • Donna L
        December 3, 2012 at 9:25 pm

        I bet he would be considered “involved” if he held the kid once a week and maybe changed a poo diaper bi-monthly.

        Not by me, or a lot of people; I think you’re being a little hyperbolic here! Even back in ancient times when my son was a baby, in 1990-1991 or so, the general feeling among parents I knew was that fathers should be, and wanted to be, much more involved than that no matter what kind of hours they worked. Including changing diapers at every opportunity!

      • (BFing)Sarah
        December 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

        I would consider him just as “involved” as a mother who maybe works 30 hours a week and spends twice as much time with the kids.

        No. There’s a difference between “as involved as possible” and “as involved.” Someone who only spends weekends and days off with the kids is not as involved as someone who is with them twice as much. Maybe that person is as involved as they CAN BE, but they are not “as involved.” To my mind, each person has to make their own decision as to how involved they can be and want to be. Its a balance and currently women are made to feel guilty no matter where they fall on that balance and that is not right.

      • (BFing)Sarah
        December 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm

        GRR!! I replied twice and once in the wrong place. I blame my browser, which is being SO slow and bizarre with this site lately! Sorry, Donna, I think I commented above…this was to David, obvi. Also, I caught myself being hyperbolic again in my comment. Where I put 80% I should estimate maybe 60-75%. I think that’s more accurate, not that you can be exact. :)

    • tinfoil hattie
      December 3, 2012 at 10:02 pm

      I think it’s a great article, too. I did have one “hmmm … ” moment, and that was here:

      housekeeping, childcare, home finances, vacation-planning, social calendaring.

      One of these things is NOT like the other. “childcare” is an entire full time job in and of itself. And, of course, the burden for managing the child care (either “staying home” or finding paid care) falls onto the female partner in a male-female marriage.

      • karak
        December 4, 2012 at 8:48 am

        I don’t understand what you’re trying to get at, but what I’m getting from you is that childcare is s intensive doesn’t allow for other tasks/duties/activities, which is untrue.

  6. RoryBorealis
    December 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    This woman law student at a top-notch school thanks you for pointing out the massive elephant in the room. I’m at the sort of big name law school whose primary purpose seems to be to funnel as many of its grads into BigLaw as possible, and the inequalities in firm culture is something the career development office pointedly omits. (My current plan is to try to get a public interest job of some kind–the pay is less, but the government and non-profit legal cultures seem a lot less sexist and generally dysfunctional.)

    • (BFing)Sarah
      December 3, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      Siiiigh. This used to be me. I feel sad, now. I did end up in Big Law and promptly left. You didn’t ask for my advice, but I’m giving it anyway. Stay dedicated to finding the type of PI work that you want to do and do all of your internships, research work (if you work for a prof right now), journal stuff, etc, on that type of work. Stick with it! I don’t know what year you are, but start working on finding those PI jobs asap and start working on your apps for them, b/c my experience is that they are a hell of a lot harder to get than the Big Law positions, which you just kind of float into on a cloud if your grades are good at all. Also…do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, think that you can just take a summer position for one teensy summer and then not take the offer. The money is addictive–unless you come from a wealthy family and you don’t really need it– and it is SO HARD to say no once you have accumulated those loans! Plus, if you take that un-paid internship two summers in a row your application for full time work in PI looks a lot better. Of course, things might have changed since my experience and the experiences of the people I know, so you never know. Best of luck!!!

      • RoryBorealis
        December 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

        Thank you for this advice and good wishes! I really appreciate hearing from people who’ve been through it. I’m a 1L, but it’s moving surprisingly fast. I’m doing three different legal clinics this year to try out different areas of law and to make some connections and get some hands-on practical experience. I’ll be applying to PI jobs for the summer. Law is a career change for me–I’m over thirty–so I doubt that BigLaw would want me even if I was interested. (I’m able to do this without loans, because I spent the last few years banking all my overtime from my former job to save up for law school and have a generous non-loan non-grade-dependent financial aid package. I also have a partial pension from my former job that kicks in when I turn 42 which means that relatively low-paying PI work is a lot more feasible for me than it is for many of my classmates. I’m in a seriously lucky position–I won’t need a BigLaw salary to make loan payments.) Everything I’ve heard about BigLaw sounds makes it sound like the fast track to burnout.

      • RoryBorealis
        December 4, 2012 at 1:10 am

        …And that was incredibly typo-tastic. I blame a day of working on exam outlines.

  7. DSJ
    December 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    My buddy who worked in a big law firm for a couple years said there was a special title besides partner and associate (I can’t remember what it was) where you weren’t expected to work an extremely long number of hours, and pretty much all the women in the firm had that title.

    Semi-Digression: I see another oblique reference to the Ann-Marie Slaughter article about women having it all. I remember most people here thought it was a good article (after actually reading it) but since then it seems like it’s been reduced to a titular meme. “Women can’t have it all!” and the more thoughtful issues and conclusions brought up in the article have been tossed aside.

    I wish it had been titled something else, less space given to beating down womens’ hopes and more prominence given to solutions that we can implement to make work-life balance more equitable in male-female couples.

    But then it probably wouldn’t have received 200k ‘likes’, and become the most popular article ever on that site. At this point I’m convinced it’s popularity is due to the fact that it can be interpreted as “career woman admits that it’s better to be home”, as one German paper put it. It’s like Tracy McMillan’s article on HuffPo from Valentine’s day 2011 about “why you’re not married”, which received 250k ‘likes’. Basically even among ‘sophisticated liberals’, men AND women, there’s a deeply repressed longing to wallow in sexism and when something that comes along that makes it okay to do so, there’s an epic stampede. Now tell me that I’m wrong.

    • Anon21
      December 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      My buddy who worked in a big law firm for a couple years said there was a special title besides partner and associate (I can’t remember what it was)

      Could it have been “of counsel”? I’ve never worked for a firm, but I have seen that title around, and my vague impression is that it signifies something between a partner and an associate.

      • Donna L
        December 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm

        Generally speaking, “of counsel” is for retired partners. The term you’re thinking of is usually “counsel,” or “senior attorney,” or something similar.

      • Donna L
        December 3, 2012 at 2:43 pm

        And people with titles like that — like yours truly — are usually compensated just like senior associates; the only difference is the more prestigious title.

        Not to mention that a lot of “partners” aren’t really partners (that is, they don’t actually share in the equity of the firm, which is how people make the big bucks, but are, instead, non-equity partners, or “contract partners” who get a share of only the business they bring in personally, not the profits of the firm as a whole). There are almost as many possible permutations as there are attorneys.

      • December 3, 2012 at 3:08 pm

        Ah, the ongoing crisis in the practice of law. People go to law school either wanting to do good, or thinking it’s B-school without math. If they’re at a big firm, they’ve already realized they are getting neither of those things out of their professional life. And so they work their lives away hoping to be one of the select few who make partner, or the leave. Those who make partner find that “partner” isn’t what it was, except at Cravath, where comp is famously lockstep. Everywhere else, you can be brilliant and work very hard, but without a book of business, you’re replacable and the comp is … a lot in absolute terms, but not a lot in NY professional work-all-the-time terms. And the skills to develop a book of business, increasingly, nobody teaches anyone because all the rainmakers want to keep all the clients for themselves; it’s their bargaining chip against being sidelined.

        And the work. Increasingly, law firms are scribes that paper deals for big companies and financial services instead of trusted advisors. Marty Lipton and Rog Cohen are trusted advisors. Second year transactional lawyers are paper pushers, billing 2700 hours a year and sucking up, and eating shit from investment bankers who look down their noses. And sometimes taking it out on associates, who sometimes take it out on paralegals and contract lawyers. Seriously.

        And clients have increasingly learned that most of what firms provide in fungible and replaceable and for most of the firms in the AmLaw 200, their fee structure makes them out of reach for lots of smaller businesses and they can’t compete with the top few firms for the most lucrative work from the most lucrative clients. Clients are getting more and more savvy about how to cut costs on discovery, insource or outsource around firms, push down on associate billing, demand blended rates and generally not overpay, which makes life ever tougher. But the rainmakers are not taking any less, so the depressive effect has been on the pay of contract partners, associates and contract lawyers. Who all make absurd amounts in global terms, but when your law school loans are four figures a month, it takes a whole lot to service the debt, and even more to make headway on the principal, and it’s hard not to spend whatever is left as a balm for the joyless treadmill that is most people’s big firm experience.

        But what I’m saying isn’t anything one couldn’t glean from reading Above The Law anytime in the last five years.

      • (BFing)Sarah
        December 3, 2012 at 7:26 pm

        I’m replying to TAM above–yes, yes, and yes. Oh, how I wish I had known all of this prior to attending law school. SIGH.

  8. December 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Jill, that’s a lovely article and a good case study of marginalisation in action. Thank you.

  9. Donna L
    December 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    But the ensuing discussion is about men who don’t seem to be involved parents at all. They work 16-hour days, they aren’t as involved in child-raising, etc. But men aren’t made to feel guilty about that in the same way (although, personally, I think they’re missing out in a big way, and as a child who did not get to see her father frequently, I certainly didn’t like it).

    Thank you. As I mentioned elsewhere, I’ve been working at New York City firms for more than 30 years, the first 16 at one of the larger ones (at least, one of the larger of the traditionally Jewish firms), and I used to wonder whether the children of some of the male partners were even able to recognize their fathers. Of even greater relevance, my own father became a partner at a different large New York City firm (another one of those transitionally Jewish firms!) when I was 8, and both before and after that, I hardly ever saw him when I was growing up. And bitterly resented it.

    It isn’t worth it, ever. Not for anyone who is or wants to be a parent, male or female. Especially for the vast number of big firm lawyers who don’t even enjoy their work.

    • Donna L
      December 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      traditionally, not transitionally. I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately with all the typos.

    • (BFing)Sarah
      December 3, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Agreed. Not worth it to me, either.

  10. December 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Law firm partner here.

    Different titles mean different things at different places, especially if we’re talking not just Biglaw (the “AmLaw 200” or largest 200 firms) but also the small and midsized and niche firms.

    “Associate” is a junior position, usually within the first decade of practice, and sometimes but not always going to be considered for partner. That’s where the clarity ends.

    “Partner” almost always means that one’s personal tax return is filed with the Form K-1 attached. That’s about it. An equity partner gets a share of firm profits, usually based on some kind of point system that’s rarely equal across the partnership. Some partners are “partners” with a title but no equity. This is often called “contract partner.” Some small firms are 100% owned by one partner, and all the other partners are contract partners. Partners in big firms may have very little say, because many firms are run by a cabal *ahem* management committee that makes all the decisions.

    There are “contract lawyers” who are not partners or associates and are basically just hired on, often for relatively routine work and maybe only for one case. They often work through staffing agencies, but sometimes they’re direct employees.

    There are positions with names like “special counsel” or “senior counsel” that are sort of too senior to be associates but also not partner. Firms call it different things. Usually it’s a less-work for less-comp and no advancement situation. How interesting the work is and how well the people in that position are treated may vary widely.

    Then, there is “Of Counsel.” It’s the most elastic term. It can mean almost anything. It can mean an employee who is neither associate nor contract partner. It can mean a loose affiliation between effectively a solo practitioner and a firm. It can mean, basically, partner emeritus. It can be a waystation for a lateral who may be made partner if things work out but who would be insulted by being called an associate. It can mean a prestige politico with an honorary desk.

  11. December 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Yup, sounds familiar, although my experience is only in physical science. Past my use by date there now. It really is something watching an international community of ‘scientists’ continue to be unable to read the well documented statistics of oppression, or the failure of their logic when it comes to ‘evaluating’ competency.

  12. matlun
    December 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Just for fun: Mathematical nitpicking

    The court isn’t like Congress or a corporation where there are hundreds of people serving and female-only representation would suggest a serious (and probably intentional) imbalance.

    That is just not true. If we were in fact living in a perfectly just society and for each Supreme Court justice there was a 50% chance that the person chosen was a woman, the chance of all 9 justices being women is just 1 in 512. For there to be a 50% chance of this happening you would have to wait for 711 choices of justices (ignoring varying times in office in the calculations – ie calculating the chance of 9 judge choices in a row being women)

    On the Supreme Court, each judge stays in office for quite some time. Some google seems to show a rough average time of around 5000 days (actually more), which would mean that to have a 50% for an all-female court, we would have to wait about ten thousand years.

    With that average office time, the chance of it happening by random chance within 100 years would be below 1 %

    • matlun
      December 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Actually, the calculations above are incorrect. How sad.

      A 5000 day average time in office and 9 judges means that you need to choose a new judge on average every 5000/9 days. Not once every 5000 days. So 711 choices happen in 711 * 5000/9 days or close to 1100 years (as opposed to “ten thousand” above).

      Similarly, the chance of it happening within 100 years becomes around 6%.

      Now I am leaving the floor to those who want to discuss the substantive issues…

      • Bagelsan
        December 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm

        6%? Then p > 0.05 bitchez, it’s not statistically significant evidence of bias against men, so let’s lady-ify that court! Woot!


  13. December 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I must admit I read articles like these and feel deeply discouraged. Though I try to be a good male ally, I must concede that many men never make the connections discussed here. As Jill wrote, we only seem to have these kinds of discourse within women-centric spaces.

    Earlier in life, I could have reaped the rewards of many a boy’s club. This was especially true when I was in college, had I chosen to pledge a fraternity. But I was turned off by how exclusionary the Greeks were and how no one ever thought to peer outside the veneer. They had produced the state’s elite politicians, lawyers, and doctors for over a century, and they retained the power to be kingmaker.

    It’s the Type A, alpha male-dominated professions and gatherings that seem to be the most rampantly sexist. If there were true gender parity (God forbid), I’d be curious to see what would happen if an equal number of men as women were teachers in K-12 and an equal number of women as men were high-powered attorneys.

    • December 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      Though I try to be a good male ally, I must concede that many men never make the connections discussed here

      Yep, this, pretty much.

      It’s amazing, as a multimarginalised person who’s pretty open to talking about all of it irl, to see what people come to me with on a “so a friend and I were talking about this thing that you know/are/do” basis, or what they report having discussed with others. If there’s a man involved in the discussion, it’s usually in this order (per my intersectional issues): race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, mental illness. Never any discussions of gender, disability, or heavens forbid gender identity (though I’m cisish, so I guess that’s not applicable technically). …for purposes of this discussion, I’m excluding talking about temporary disabilities or illnesses.

      If there’s no men involved, the order: race, gender, religion, disability, ethnicity, mental orientation, mental illness, gender identity.

      …You know, sometimes I get all wistful about the idea of having male privilege, and then I think about all the shit that men apparently don’t ever talk about with men, and conclude that the privilege isn’t worth the roaring boredom.

      • Donna L
        December 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm

        You know, sometimes I get all wistful about the idea of having male privilege,

        Enh. I wouldn’t too much if I were you. If you’re not exactly a guy, it isn’t necessarily so easy to take advantage of, or so rewarding.

      • tomek
        December 4, 2012 at 4:56 am

        hmm the male privelege is such privelege indeed! eccept it is not as good as thing that only woman get to do. hmm.

      • Donna L
        December 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm

        eccept it is not as good as thing that only woman get to do. hmm.

        What things would those be, Tomek?

      • Clarissa
        December 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm

        I can’t take this seriously long enough to indulge it with any line of questioning. When women experience privilege, that is the exception. Just like when men aren’t treated to the privilege they’re accustomed to, THAT is the exception. The idea that the scraps of privilege women are treated to outweigh the sheer landslide of privilege men get is just ridiculous. Someone needs to do a little more reading.

      • tomek
        December 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm

        i was just note what macavastume said, she want not to swap privilege man have for prilevege she have as woman. it is not worth it she say.
        if not woman want to have man privilege if it mean to give up woman priviliege, it show that man privilege not better than woman prvilege, just different.

      • Clarissa
        December 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm

        Sorry, what privilege is that? I think I wasn’t here that day when they handed out all this ‘women privilege’.

    • Safiya Outlines
      December 4, 2012 at 6:30 pm

      More men in the “traditionally female” professions isn’t the boon for equality you might think. Two words: Glass Escalator

  14. December 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Just to zoom out to macro here, I think the single biggest issue is childrearing, and all the pressures that create situations where high-powered professional men can be dads with a SAH or part-time employed partner, but women very rarely have that same support. One might hope we’d change the culture of professional jobs so that people who have them also have time to parent, but you can wish in one hand and shit in the other … So that leaves finding a way that these jobs can be filled by women without those women having burdens their male peers don’t carry.

    Changing the gender norms around parenting and careers, reducing the crap that older male relatives give men who are not primary breadwinners and dismantling the mother-guilt-establishment, are long-term projects. But in the meantime, the aging of the baby boom generation is changing the economy. To my eyes, among affluent professional folks, one of the things that is happening is that instead of retiring, the boomers are “retiring” to a second career in raising their grandchildren. I have not seen any quantitative work on this, and I’d like to. This has both upsides and downsides, but one thing is does is help spread the load, and having grandma or grandpa around may help women who are high-earning professionals have the advantages of support at home that usually only men have enjoyed.

  15. Antha
    December 3, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Here is my problem with this. You do not rectify past inequalities by making things unequal in the other direction. I assume everyone here is against an all male, or male-dominated Supreme Court (or any government institution for that matter). Why then, do you advocate for an all-female Supreme Court instead of a rough balance of male and female? That does not speak of equality to me, but of supremacy.

    • Clarissa
      December 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      I understand where you’re coming from but the idea of a constant, perfect balance seems silly and artificial to me. There will be times that the Supreme Court has a perfect or near perfect balance in the gender of its members. And there have and will continue to be times when its roster is male-dominated. I just think it should just as frequently swing the other way, where it is female-dominated.

      • tomek
        December 4, 2012 at 5:00 am

        this still suggest that choice of superm court is on gender base. if only chance, very unlikely ever be 100% man or woman.

      • rain
        December 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm

        Hee. I read that as sperm court. Either way, doesn’t really affect the readability of that sentence.

      • Clarissa
        December 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm

        Uhh, it most definitely has been 100% in the recent past, so I don’t know what you mean by saying that the eventuality of that is unlikely.

      • tomek
        December 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm

        it have been 100% male in past because the sexism. however if we take away sex based choosing, the probability of have all female is very low. eggro, if court become 100% female it mean that gender has been taken in decision

      • Clarissa
        December 5, 2012 at 2:53 am

        That’s nice, dear.
        And I think you meant “ergo”. It’d be a big help to others in deciphering your comments, if you ran them through a spell checker before posting.

      • rain
        December 5, 2012 at 7:26 am

        Are you sure he didn’t mean “eggroll”?

      • yes
        December 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm

        God, I love patronizing people who speak English as a second language or have less education experience than me. I just want my first attempt here to be really snappy. Any advice? Should I go straight to evoking class or start out by suggesting mental disability?

      • December 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm


        You’re aware that tomek’s a fucking dim-ass troll who’s almost certainly aware of his fuckery, right? It’s not condescending, it’s getting tired of bullshit.

      • Clarissa
        December 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm

        Wait, what? You think I’m being patronizing?
        Actually, I was just tired of trying to explain some fundamental shit to someone when I knew I had the wrong genitals to even remotely begin to change their mind.
        And my suggestion to use spell-check was actually meant to be friendly advice. If others hadn’t dignified tomek’s posting with responses, I wouldn’t even have bothered to read them, the grammar was so poor and difficult to follow.

      • yes
        December 6, 2012 at 2:27 am

        That’s nice, dear.

      • Clarissa
        December 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm

        Yes, I thought so too.

  16. n3rd
    December 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I’d settle for a supreme court line up that understands how the internet works for a change vs one that needs to have it explained to them by “experts” <_<

  17. Colin
    December 3, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    One could make a similar argument for voting. The total number of men and women who have lived in the USA is roughly equal, but over the history of the country, the amount of voting power wielded by men has been much greater, because for more than half of the USA’s history, women were denied the vote. The US Constitution and most of its amendments were decided exclusively by men, but there has never been the opportunity for women to change the Constitution on their own because of the overwhelming majorities needed to do so.

    To make up for all those elections where women didn’t have the vote, is it the right way to go about things to have a run of elections where men are denied the vote? Or switch every four years between only men voting and only women voting?

    • December 3, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Colin, I get the feeling you read the headline but not any of the article.

    • Clarissa
      December 3, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      This is a false analogy. The Supreme Court doesn’t wield the kind of pervasive decision-making power that elections do.

      Frankly, an all-female Supreme Court is such a ridiculous idea in this male-dominated day and age that it’s essentially a fantasy for people to project their fears and hopes on. The fact that so many people dramatically fear widespread loss of male power and see that as worse than the male dominance we have now says a lot.

      • Colin
        December 3, 2012 at 10:09 pm

        I was going to make the point about it being mathematically improbable even assuming equal opportunity, but matlun already said that.

        I do think there is a serious point here, though: the SCOTUS’s job is to interpret and uphold the constitution, a document written almost exclusively by men. The reverence the USA has for its ‘Founding Fathers’ is patriarchal by anyone’s definition of the word. So even an all-female SCOTUS would be working within a framework defined by men. In practice though, the powers of the SCOTUS are extensive, probably more than any other constitutional court in the world, because the US constitution is so full of ambiguities and the political setup makes it almost impossible to amend.

      • Clarissa
        December 3, 2012 at 10:20 pm

        And currently more men than women have that power and traditionally only men have. So what? Your point is still incongruent with your analogy, which would require denying people their rights as opposed to simply appointing female officials to work within the patriarchal framework.

        Even thought it is only a fantasy, just what do you find so threatening about the idea of an all-female Supreme Court? Do you imagine there would be some kind of abuses of power inherent to their gender? Because, the way I see it, all you’d have is a group of people who would hopefully be more even-handed to a majority group that is treated like a minority group.

      • Clarissa
        December 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm

        Oh yeah, not to mention, yay, more female judges held in high esteem.

      • Colin
        December 4, 2012 at 1:11 am

        Ah sorry, this is all looking a bit Modest Proposal. I don’t find an all-female Supreme Court an especially threatening prospect – if anything, most likely it wouldn’t be progressive enough, if we assume the judges still have to be approved by the usual suspects in Congress. To be honest, I don’t even think an all-female electorate would do anything especially radical, at least not in a bad way. The thing that scares me more is that US politics is divided between a moderate party (‘conservative’ in European parlance) that basically wants to maintain the current system with minor updates to fix the worst excesses, and a party whose aim is to turn the country into a banana republic, and it’s the latter party that now commands a large majority of the male vote. (Just so we’re clear, it’s the Republicans who are the ‘banana republic’ party.) So if anything, women are already saving the average American man from the consequences of his poor political judgement.

  18. DouglasG
    December 3, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Enough for what? seems to be left open to interpretation. I can get the feel of it, though. Just nine women? I might hold out for nine LBT women.

    [It’s not unreasonable to think that, at some point, nine of the finest legal minds in the country would belong to women.]

    Surely they do now, at least well within the scope of the Top Whatever we’d have to set as the field from which the SC is selected.

    (Just as an aside, how good is the usual nominee? Top fifty? hundred? thousand? ten thousand?)

    I’d like to see an all-female Supreme Court if it happened quickly for some reason, but to bring it about over time could, given how politicized everything gets, require one-party rule (or perhaps one-mindset rule) prolonged far beyond long enough to scare me witless.

    My limited experience with mentoring has been pretty uniformly positive, though some friends have not been so lucky, and I don’t know how much crossover applicability there would be into the heteronormative corporate model.

  19. Anon for this
    December 4, 2012 at 3:51 am

    Good piece Jill. I’m a lawyer in New Zealand and have recently been interviewing for a new job. I’ve had interviewing partners go on about not understanding why women don’t go more for partnership. Needless to say I didn’t bother pointing out that most women don’t have a wife at home to take care of absolutely everything else.

    The Auckland Women Lawyers Association is funding a study into this issue, and while we know the reasons why women “are not interested in” partnership it’ll be good to have some data to back it up. By the way, our proportion of female judges in much higher than that of female partners.

  20. Stella
    December 6, 2012 at 7:38 am

    The revolution needs to start at home. Also the view must change how many women see stay at home husbands. Rather than seeing them as a support whom might free ones time up, to push ones own career many women still see men whom do not achieve in the world as losers, so they want achieving men, which leads to frictions at home if they have similar ambitions.

    Men on the other hand see women whom take care of the home and children not as a cost factor, but as an asset which frees up their time so they can pursue a career.

    Feminism needs to start at home beginning with what women look for in a man and as long as that is pretty traditional and old fashioned not much is going to change if you want to affect percentages.

    • Stella
      December 6, 2012 at 7:43 am

      Then again everybody needs to pursue their own happiness and if somebody prefers having an achieving partner rather than pursuing ones own career, then thats the way it is. But at the very least those women need to be educated on how their life might change if the relationship fails.

  21. SaraJ
    December 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    And this is why I am leaving feminism behind…. hello humanism, how grateful I am to meet you!

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