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2011 Workshop on Women Rethinking Equality

June 20-22, 2011
Washington, DC

Women seeking equality in America today face an uneven prospect. Women are represented in record numbers in all branches of government, yet also struggle in unprecedented numbers below the poverty line, and they remain notably absent from many corporate boardrooms. Two more women have been appointed to the Supreme Court, including the first Latina justice; yet the popular debate and confirmation hearings were marred by race and gender stereotypes and by homophobia. Advocates of same-sex marriage and new reproductive technologies have challenged the traditional family, yet they have been met by efforts to renaturalize marriage, childbirth, and the place of women in the private sphere. These same contradictions mark women’s role in legal education. Women comprise a majority of students in many law schools, yet women are not equally represented in the professoriat. A recent AALS Report revealed a “tenure gap” affecting all women, which was particularly wide and increasing among women of color. The predominance of women in lower-paid, lower-status positions without job security in the legal academy mirrors their relative absence from top positions in law firms, law schools, and other highly paid legal positions.

As we address the unfinished business of equality, women confront complex challenges. Some impediments stem from a public perception that the central problems of women’s equality were solved a generation ago. Other obstacles – which women are often reluctant to confront – arise from the heterogeneity of the group itself. We are heterogeneous first in the ways we experience our lives as women: women share commonalities based on sex, while also differing along lines of race, ethnicity, class, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation, and disability. In the cities and rural areas of this country, as in the halls of law schools, these stark variations can give women widely different experiences of gender and sharply different stakes in its continued political amelioration. Women also vary in our conceptualizations of the challenges we face: “sex discrimination” has ceased to be the only way of characterizing the social and institutional dynamics that reproduce the inequality of women. Theorists and activists have argued that we are subject not simply to the varied forms of exclusion and hierarchy that constitute “subordination.” Our lives are also shaped by pressures to conform to bifurcated gender norms, to expectations of cross-sex sexual desires and the fulfillment of these desires within marital, nuclear, reproductive families. This concern with gender norms and the constraining social patterns they produce creates potentially fruitful areas of intersection between feminism and LGBT and transgender theory and activism. Finally we are heterogeneous in our personal and professional aspirations: Many women may not analyze sex or gender in these explicitly politicized ways, or may not use more formalized constructs to discuss them. We may be struggling to do our best work – and to achieve the recognition it merits – in fields and workplaces that are still dominated by men; we may be striving to combine work and family in the context of inevitable shortages of time and money. Yet we may want to commit our efforts not to unpacking or responding to gendered dynamics in a theoretical way, but to developing practical strategies for confronting them in our daily lives or individual workplaces. Such heterogeneity is hardly surprising in a group that includes more than half of the human race. Yet if women fail to understand and negotiate this heterogeneity in a self-aware, reflective way, we may end up chasing an elusive unity, or diffusing our efforts with unnecessary friction.

The 2011 Workshop on Women Rethinking Equality will address these challenges, in the broader society and in the specific context of legal education. In analyzing the remaining barriers, we will think specifically about how to understand and to bridge the heterogeneity our group reflects – by glimpsing our shared stake in struggles of particular subgroups, and by focusing on the immediate institutional environment that we all share. We will also ask how we might use many kinds of connections among women – networking, mentoring, sharing of information – to secure greater opportunity, and transform the institutional settings in which we live and work.

“Women Rethinking Equality” will appeal to a full range of teachers and scholars in all subject areas. The program creates opportunities for a rich dialogue about the meaning, contours, implications, and status of equality for women, specifically in the setting of legal education. Workshop sessions will focus on substantive law and scholarship, teaching concerns and professional development issues. The substance and format of the program will offer opportunities for networking and small-group discussion. We welcome participation by all AALS members, and particularly all women, whether or not their scholarship includes a gender focus.

The first full day of the meeting will open with a morning plenary on “The Unfinished Business of Women’s Equality in Legal Education,” which will focus attention on our shared context in contemporary legal academia. This panel will focus on issues that continue to impede women’s equal opportunity in legal academia: from the lack of women in certain substantive areas of law teaching to continuing challenges faced by women teachers in the classroom, with particular attention to those faced by younger women, women of color, lgbt women, and pregnant women; to problems confronting women as visitors; to the devaluation of scholars who write outsider scholarship in all forms, including feminist legal theory, critical race theory, and queer theory; to the effect parenting leaves on consideration for tenure; to the continuing reluctance to integrate issues of gender equality in scholarship and teaching in all substantive areas of the law. Breakout sessions will take place in the plenary room, allowing participants to discuss in small groups the issues raised by the plenary. The second plenary, “The Workplace as a Site of (In)Equality,” will feature work by social scientists and others who have analyzed barriers to gender equality in a range of contemporary workplaces. Focusing on issues such as women and negotiation, subtle sexism, harassment of female supervisors by male supervisees, “pink collar ghettos,” and work/family conflict, they will describe research from other workplace contexts that offers women faculty tools for thinking about our own work environments. This panel, too, will be followed by breakout groups, which will convene in the plenary room for further discussion.

Following lunch, the afternoon sessions will step back from the immediate context of the workplace, to explore broader questions of sex and gender equality. The first afternoon plenary, “Meanings and Contexts of Equality” will examine the roles of sex, gender, and sexuality in producing women’s inequality, including their intersection with attributes such as race or socioeconomic status. Panelists will also explore different ways of conceiving equality, such as substantive notions of equality emerging in Canadian and European contexts. These conceptual tools will help participants to think about inequality in a range of contexts, including legal academia. After the panel discussion, concurrent sessions will provide participants with opportunities for more in-depth examination of sex and gender in a range of substantive law contexts, including but not limited to international human rights, reproductive rights, corporate and tax law, criminal justice, and economic equality. The first day’s meetings will be followed by an evening poster presentation and reception. The reception will be structured to enable participants to meet others within their substantive fields; it will feature posters on forthcoming and recent scholarship by women faculty. It will be followed by a “Dine-Around” option, in which participants, who will be invited to sign up in advance, can meet in small groups for dinner at nearby restaurants.

The second day of “Women Rethinking Equality” will return to the law school setting, to focus on women’s professional development and institutional change. The first plenary, “Women as Scholars,” will examine the obstacles faced by particular groups of women scholars, such as junior faculty, women of color writing in feminist legal theory, or women striving for visibility and influence in male-dominated fields. It will also explore newer or less conventional vehicles for the dissemination and promotion of scholarly work, such as popular books, university press monographs, or blogging. This panel will be followed by concurrent sessions on scholarship. In these sessions, faculty selected through a call for papers will present works-in-progress in small group sessions, receiving feedback from assigned commentators and other participants.

The afternoon session will open with a plenary on “Women as Teachers.” This session will consider evidence of a gap between the ways that today’s students and many faculty members talk about sex, gender, and sexuality; it will ask how we can bridge that gap in the often-vexed discussions these topics create. This plenary will examine presumptions of incompetence which continue to affect all women faculty, but pose particular challenges to women of color and younger women, as well as other issues in the evaluation of women as teachers. This panel discussion will be followed by breakout sessions which will take place in the plenary room. The final session of the conference, “Reshaping Institutions” will proceed in three phases. First a plenary discussion will highlight a series of potential areas for action, including: increasing the recruitment, promotion and retention of women of color; securing positions of leadership for women in law schools; establishing structures that support mentoring of women faculty and students; re-valuing legal writing and clinical work in the currency of salary and full academic “citizenship”; and accommodating the care responsibilities of all faculty members. Participants will then break into small groups to discuss strategies for addressing these issues within their individual law schools; finally, these groups will come together to share their suggestions in a concluding session.

Unfinished Business of Women’s Equality in Legal Education; The Workplace as a Site of Gender (In)Equality; Meanings of Gender Equality; Women as Scholars; Women as Teachers, Gender in the Classroom; Reshaping Institutions; Concurrent Sessions: Meanings and Contexts of Gender Equality (From Reproductive Rights to Reproductive Justice; Gender and Economic Equality; Gender and Criminal Law; Gender and Justice System; Larry Summers and Tax Lawyers; Theorizing Gender); Concurrent Sessions on Scholarship Call for Papers.

When is the Workshop?
The Workshop on Women Rethinking Equality will begin on the evening of Monday, June 20 with a reception.  The next two days will include plenary sessions and concurrent sessions.  The workshop will conclude at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, June 23.

Where is the Workshop?
Workshop sessions and sleeping accommodations will be at The Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, 1227 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC. The hotel room rate is $229 for single or double occupancy. This rate is subject to a 14.5% sales tax. To make a hotel reservation: Visit www.aals.org/nlt2011/ and click on the “Housing” tab; or, complete the Hotel Reservation Request Form included in this brochure and mail it to the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel; or, if paying by credit card, either call (800) 266-9432 (Group name AALS 2011 Workshop) or fax the form to (202) 776 9184.

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