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Sometimes you just feel like shouting, “Hey, Boalt! Get with the program!” The University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall Women’s Association took the law school to task last week for its poor record of hiring women into tenure track positions. Only 10 of 54 faculty members at Boalt are women. And since passage of California Proposition 209 in 1996, not a single woman has been offered a tenure-track position. The student group is also up in arms because Daniel Farber, a controversial scholar in critical race theory, is being considered for one of three tenured positions. “He’d be just one more white male on the faculty when we have so many,” said Renee Jansen, president of the student group. What’s surprising about the situation at Boalt is that anyone is surprised. The fact is, women continue to struggle to break into the top tiers of the legal profession, both at law firms and at law school faculties. “Women are under-represented,” said Paula Patton, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement. “In the 20 years women have been in the pipeline, it would seem that more women would be represented in the top echelon of the profession.” At the United States’ largest law firms, generally those with 100 or more lawyers, women accounted for about 16 percent of partners in 2000, according to NALP. That’s an increase, albeit a slight one, from about 13 percent in 1995, when NALP first started keeping track of such matters. One place women are well represented is in law school student ranks. Since 1995, women have accounted for more than 50 percent of Boalt’s student enrollment — and women accounted for 63 percent of the class enrolled in fall 2000. But those students sure aren’t being taught by many professors who look like them. There are “culture constraints” that continue to make it difficult for women to crack into highly prestigious positions, Patton said. In the United States, prestige means the U.S. Supreme Court, she says, which women finally cracked with the addition of Sandra Day O’Connor in the early 1980s. I’m not surprised that it took so long to get a woman into an old, stodgy institution like the Supreme Court, or that women still represent less than a third of its members. But I just expect more from the law school at U.C. Berkeley. A bastion of liberalism, Cal has served as ground zero for civil rights and disability movements. And the San Francisco East Bay community of which it is a part has been a leader in recent years in pushing for gay and lesbian rights. Shouldn’t we be able to expect that Boalt would be leading the way in terms of getting women into its faculty ranks? Dean John Dwyer defends the school’s hiring practices. He says five out of the last 16 hires have been women. But John, that’s 28 percent. That’s not good enough, especially given that nearly two out of three students at the school are women. It also doesn’t make sense that there is only one woman on Boalt’s five-member recruiting committee. When you are trying to boost the number of women among your ranks, it would make sense to have more of the women you do have help in the recruiting efforts. That seems like a simple fix. The numbers aside, what is most disturbing about the lack of women on the faculty at Boalt is Dwyer’s response to the outcry this week. It feels bland, even lackadaisical. “The school thinks it’s important,” he said. “I think it’s important.” Why didn’t Dwyer just say it’s important to him? As the head of the school, he is the school. The way he says it, it sounds like because diversity is important to the school, it’s important to him, rather than vice-versa. “Hey, John! Get with the program!” Lesley Guth is the managing editor of The Recorder.

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