July 25, 2007
Academic Conferences & Gender
Posted by Christine Hurt

A few weeks ago, Eugene Volokh addressed complaints about the paucity of women panelists at a recent Federalist Society conference.  I responded to one explanation that was related to citation counts and promised to address the topic of gender and conferences generally at a later time.  Well, it is later. . . .

I have often defended blogging as the great academic equalizer by noting that women law professors (or I should say parenting law professors) may find it easier to balance blogging with home life than traveling for conferences.  I have responded to critics of time-intensive blogging that networking through blogging may be a substitute for networking through conferences, which can be costly in terms of time and money.  (This Spring I had a babysitter stay with our kids Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon while Paul and I were at different conferences the same weekend -- not cheap.) 

Perhaps because of the demographics of my field (corporate law), I often go to conferences where women law professors are in the minority.  Last year in fact I was the sole female panelist at a day-long conference with 10 or so speakers.  I've really gotten to where I don't notice much any more.  I was talking about this with some other female corporate law professors, who have decided that when asked to speak at a conference, they also make suggestions of other possible female speakers to be invited (to counteract any network effects similar to the ones that Eugene discussed).  However, I know at my almost all-male conference, many speakers suggested two other female professors who wrote in the field, and they declined.  So, my question to readers is whether women law professors feel that they must pick and choose their conferences more so than their counterparts due to child care responsibilities or other work/life issues.

Obviously, pregnancy takes a female law professor out of conference rotation for at least a month or so before the birth and several afterwards, depending on nursing decisions, etc.  As one of several female law professors I know who took a baby to the meat market, I can attest to doing some wacky things to keep up a travel schedule and be the mother of small children!  My mother-in-law, who lives nowhere near us, is often the one who drives hours to meet me at an airport to take the children while I conference for a few days.  However, blogging is much easier, and more invisible than attending conferences.  Why I could be eight months pregnant right now, and you would never know.

Finally, maybe David or Gordon could tell us what they think the gender mix is in Berlin right now.  Law & Society is usually a fairly diverse conference, but I don't know that many women law professors who were planning on going to Berlin this year. 

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