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Where my girls at?

I distinctly remember a couple of falls ago looking across the classroom in torts and having the lyrics of a popular song from 1999 ring between my ears.

“Where my girls at? From the front to back…”

No seriously, where were all the women?

I had fully anticipated walking into a classroom made up of a healthy mix of half men and half women. So, you can imagine my surprise when I looked across that classroom to see a 30/60 split. What was going on here? What was going on in the world? Surely this is just a fluke.

back in the fifties

Or maybe we were living back in the fifties and someone forgot to tell me?

As it turns out, there has been a national downward trend in female law school applicants and attendees since 2002. The trend has been slightly more severe in rural populations. And, it is certainly not getting any better. This year’s incoming class at WVU features noticeably fewer women.

Many reasons emerge for the trend, and my favorite one is this: Women are turning to careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines. Although, the numbers don’t exactly speak to the complete veracity of that statement. Engineering classrooms are still starkly male. But, there does seem to be a rise in female dentists, pharmacists, and veterinarians which all claim to have approximately 70% female representations in school.

Some other less exciting reasons that have been suggested are these:
– women don’t tend to make it to the tops of their law firms (or other equivalent leadership positions in the legal realm)
– women continue to make less than men in this field
-women might be reading those headlines that paint this as a terrible time to become a lawyer
– women are more likely to pursue part-time work and lawyering isn’t seen as conducive to that
– women tend to be more risk averse financially and can’t justify the debt incurred in law school.

Whatever the reasons, I would like to see a reversal of the trend take place, and I can only assume that the admissions departments of law schools across the country would agree with me on that. Gender parity can happen. In fact, it already did in 2002. So what can be done to make the change occur?

I’m not so sure.

But, I think it would help if practitioners and law students would be encouraging to potential female lawyers. The schools should do their best to specifically recruit females. (I can only imagine they are already doing this with gusto.) In my perfect world, the schools would offer scholarships to women encouraging them to take that financial plunge. Surely there are plenty more suggestions on how to get more women into the world of legal education and the legal profession. But, for now, I will consider it my own personal mission to be as encouraging as possible to those women who have an inkling toward the law. I would love to see a surge of bright, young female practitioners.

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