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Contested Responses To Gender Inequalities

Co-hosted by
the Women Faculty Forum and the
Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women's Rights
with support from the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund

at Yale Law School
127 Wall Street

April 26-27, 2013

organized by
Priya Natarajan, Department of Astronomy and Physics, Chair of Women Faculty Forum, Yale University
Judith Resnik, Arthur Liman Professor of Law, Yale Law School
Reva Siegel, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Professor of Law, Yale Law School
Allison Tait, WFF Postdoctoral Fellow 2011-2012

Inequalities predicated on gender persist, as women continue to be under-represented in certain areas of wage work and over-represented in others. The differentials have been the subject of concern and produced a host of responses, some more formal than others, aiming at diminishing gender gaps within various workplaces and public domains. More than 185 countries have subscribed to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women that both recognizes women’s right to equality and calls for its materialization in political, economic, social, and cultural spheres.  National constitutions in many countries have likewise been read to require forms of equal treatment. More generally, a database called the “quota project” identifies some ninety countries that have set-asides or other forms of affirmative action, some through constitutional mandates and others by legislation or regulation, aimed to increase the presence of various groups.  

Yet, while commitments to formal equality have become commonplace, the methods by which to achieve formal and substantive equality are the subject of heated debate. The conflicts that have arisen underscore the importance of understanding what “under-representation” denotes, what responses ought to be permissible, and how and when to think about numbers or percentages as a metric of success in efforts to reduce inequalities.

Last year, the Yale Women Faculty Forum and the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights at Yale Law School held the conference “Parity as Practice: The Politics of Equality,” in order to examine the practices of parity in various domains, including politics, the corporation, the academy, the home, and developing economies. What we learned was that deepening an understanding of the interaction between the legal contexts, social and political norms, and a specific domain of work was needed to understand the import and impact of parity and other forms of affirmative action.

This year’s conference, “Contested Responses to Gender Inequalities,” is designed to sharpen the focus of our initial conversation by examining comparative legal frameworks and theories of equality in a few specific contexts—such as the academy and the corporation— in which efforts are underway to address inequalities.

Once again, our focus will be on bringing a diversity of perspectives to the table, both in disciplinary and geographic terms, and engaging in both a site-specific and comparative analysis of approaches to gender equality. Our hope is to deepen an understanding of structure, culture, law, and practices on gendered inequalities.