Why Don't Males Do the Fair Share of House/Care Work?: Theories About Gender Differences Regarding Institutional & Communal Work in American Law Schools in a Time of Economic Distress

3 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2014

Date Written: March 17, 2013


For many years, it has been fairly well documented that, as a whole, women do more than their equal share of communal "care" – household and parenting – work in households across America even when both partners in a heterosexual couple with children work outside the home. Whether such statistical disparity is a result of cultural expectations, men’s larger share of paid work, or the slow pace of achieving gender equality is debatable. Meanwhile, gendered responses to the global recession and to the contraction of the labor market also present interesting phenomena for American feminists to examine. Some call the recent unemployment crisis in America the "Mancession" because of the types of labor sectors most heavily affected, namely middle class manufacturing jobs. Others argue that American females have been more successful in finding new employment during the global recession because they are more adaptable. Still others warn that as the economy turns around and middle class manufacturing jobs return, women will fare worse in the employment comparisons. Questions needing further examination as the data emerge are: 1) whether female employment will increase, decrease or change as the economy turns around, and 2) whether female adaptation will create more success in employment numbers and compensation.

Equally ripe for study is the gendered face of American legal education, particularly as legal educators are challenged to change and, I posit, to engage in "feminine" behavior: 1) to work communally rather than individually and 2) to adapt and change in a new economy. This "call for change" stems not simply from the 2008 financial crash, and its concomitant loss of legal jobs, but from the spiraling costs of legal education and the restructuring of the legal market. Critiques of American legal education such as those found in the Carnegie Foundation’s Educating Lawyers, the Clinical Legal Education Association’s Best Practices for Legal Education, and Brian Tamahana’s Failing Law Schools all underscore the need for American law school faculties to work in an integrated and communal manner instead of as independent contractor-experts. The question arises whether the need to act in a more holistic, integrated and communal manner will create or exacerbate gendered differences in the legal academy.

I argue that there have been longstanding gender differences, as a whole, in American law faculty members’ willingness to engage in the "care/household" work of law schools, namely in the production of tangible value for the students, alumni and the profession. These differences can be observed in the gender disparity among the "workhorse" administrative positions such as the Dean of Students and/or Academics, and may also exist in the day to day committee work that is the governing structure of the academy. It can also be demonstrated by the gender identity of those who do the "care" work of the institution – the formation of students for real practice (clinicians) and the challenge of teaching students the most fundamental skills needed for American attorneys - legal research and writing (lawyering /legal writing faculty). That does not mean, of course, that all female faculty members are selfless and all male faculty members are self-involved. One finds both types of individuals in both gender types.

However, for American law schools to continue to flourish, they will need individuals who work communally, who know how to adapt and change for the good of the whole, and who place student or institutional needs above individual inclinations and individual goals. As the work of law school Deans becomes more burdensome and less well-compensated, I believe it is more likely we will see an increasing number of women at the helm of law schools. Contrasting with that argument, however, and on a less cynical and more hopeful note, I explore whether the "feminization of law schools" including the modeling of and teaching of adaptability, flexibility and communal problem solving will redeem American legal education and better prepare law students for the new economy.

Keywords: gender, legal education

Suggested Citation

Lynch, Mary A., Why Don't Males Do the Fair Share of House/Care Work?: Theories About Gender Differences Regarding Institutional & Communal Work in American Law Schools in a Time of Economic Distress (March 17, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2443503 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2443503

Mary A. Lynch (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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