In our adversarial legal system, evidence is marshaled to win arguments and close cases. Speak Up and its thick record of quantitative and qualitative data are intended to do something different. We share this report with you to spark discussion, not to end it. We believe that this is the best way to honor the hard work of our predecessors and transform this institution—and our own behaviors—in ways that ensure the opportunities and resources at YLS benefit all students.
In that spirit of openness, we invite you to read, reflect, and of course, speak up.
History of Speak Up
In 2002, YLW published the first edition of Yale Law School Faculty and Students Speak About Gender: A Report on Faculty-Student Relations at Yale Law School. Expanding on several earlier YLS studies of gender dynamics during the 1980s and 1990s, the report noted progress toward gender equality within the law school, identified areas for future improvement, and started a dialogue between faculty and students about these issues.
Ten years later, YLW decided to build upon this original analysis and produce a second report documenting how gender dynamics have changed at YLS over the last decade. We embarked on our follow-up study in the fall of 2011, eager to carry forward this tradition of service and advocacy.
This report synthesizes findings from three data sources: one-on-one hour-long interviews with 54 faculty members, observations of student participation rates in 113 class sessions in the fall of 2011, and nearly 400 anonymous student survey responses.
Some of our results are encouraging: for instance, women hold the majority of research and teaching assistant positions for professors whom we interviewed. But other findings warrant concern. For example, men continue to dominate classroom participation, even when adjusted for attendance. Male students also secure clerkships—particularly appellate and Supreme Court clerkships—at a disproportionate rate. We also observed a significant and persistent gender disparity in student publishing, with women authoring just 25% of student Notes published in The Yale Law Journal over the last three years.
- Men continue to participate more in class than women—and the disparity between male and female participation rates have barely improved over the past ten years.
- Faculty and students observe that women seem more risk-adverse in their participation and are more likely to undermine or discount their own comments in class.
Beyond the Classroom
- Men are more active in engaging faculty outside of class and are more comfortable doing so.
- Men are more likely to write with faculty, and earlier—and they learn about faculty opportunities through more informal channels than women.
- Faculty observed greater hesitance among women in asking professors to advocate for them.
The lack of progress in these and other areas over the past decade affects our entire community. We believe Yale Law School should be a place where all people can thrive and have their voices heard, regardless of gender.
Please download the full report to learn more about our findings and recommendations for students, faculty, and administrators.
Speak Up is truly a product of the diligence and insight of our entire community. We thank every YLS student, professor, and staff member who has contributed to this project for their support and encouragement. In particular, we express our appreciation to the many professors and students who generously participated in interviews, classroom monitoring, and the student response survey.
The YLW Speak Up Board
Project Chairs: Fran Faircloth and Ruth Anne French-Hodson
Executive Board: Lauren Hartz, Casey Hinkle, Tiffany Ng, Tracy Nowski, Eric Parrie, Mridula Raman, Celia Rhoads, Alice Shih, Vidya Venkataraman, Julie Wang
Faculty Interview Chair: Alice Shih
Classroom Monitoring Chair: Eric Parrie
Student Survey Chair: Mridula Raman
We are excited that Speak Up has generated discussion both within the YLS community and beyond. To read press coverage of the report, please see the articles linked below. We also welcome your questions and comments. Please direct all inquiries to current YLW Chair Lauren Hartz at email@example.com.