Tag Archives: kate sutherland

Osgoode's Kate Sutherland @lawandlit on CBC re: Adrienne Rich

hi-adrienne-rich2-620.jpgMy always interesting colleague Kate Sutherland, aka @lawandlit and she blogs sometimes here and sometimes here, writes about many things including torts, defamation and tech (find some of that work here) and is a writer of fiction, was on the Sunday Edition yesterday, talking about Adrienne Rich.

I missed it but luckily, it’s available on the CBC website.  The segment starts at about 29:30 of this link.

Michael Enright in conversation with law professor Kate Sutherland about the poet and essayist, Adrienne Rich, who died at the end of March. 

The New York Times calls Rich a poet of “towering reputation and towering rage who brought the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront.”

World of Work Roundup: Moments in which to turn your mind to gender

[oops, the original version of this post went out a bit unfinished]

Two moments: One, when you`re writing, or reading, a reference letter. And two, when you`re listening to someone talk about how good they are.  Also, the Fifth Annual National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms from the U.S. National Association of Women Lawyers came out in October.  Here’s the conclusion:

We report the results of the 2010 Survey with some consternation. Progress for women lawyers in large firms is not occurring quickly. Moreover, the evolving structural changes in law firms – such as expansion of jobs at the lower end of firms, the increasing dominance of two-tier or multi-tier firms, and other non-traditional factors – along with the difficulty of obtaining credit for business development, portend stagnation or, at best, continued slow improvement in key areas such as numbers and compensation of women equity partners. Against this disappointing background, we are all the more heartened by and appreciative of the continued cooperation of participating law firms, whose efforts make a very meaningful contribution to a goal that we all share: parity of women lawyers in private practice.


The study described in this blog post is called The Emergence of Male Leadership in Competitive Environments (click here for the original paper).  The subjects were MBA students.

First, they gave 134 MBA students 150 seconds in which to add up as many sets of 4 two-digit numbers as they could.
Then, 15 months later, they split the students into 33 groups and asked them to choose a representative to do the same adding-up task, with the best representative winning money for the whole group.
Very few women were chosen as representatives; only 4 out of the 33 groups chose one, which is only half as many as would be expected.
This was not because the women were worse at adding up. Instead, it’s because men claimed to be better at the task, and so the group chose them.
This was not because the men simply lied; men and women lied roughly equally. It’s because the men misremembered their past performance. When the researchers offered the students $50 if they correctly recalled how many correct answers they got, men over-estimated their performance by an average of 2.4 answers, whilst women over-estimated by only 0.9 answers. This over-estimate of past performance led to an overconfidence about prospective performance, and hence a greater likelihood of being picked. source

Thanks to Dal`s Dean Kim Brooks for pointing me to this one – there`s one woman who could easily afford to underestimate herself by .9 – she`s still head and shoulders above most humans.

Finally, just right for hiring/ref letter season. Do not try to support a woman in a reference letter by saying that she’s supportive! Here’s the article, from Inside Higher Ed: Too Nice to Land a Job.  This one is via Kate of lawandlit, one of the best twitter streams out there and [cannot resist] a very supportive colleague. Excerpt follows:

The research is based on a content analysis of 624 letters of recommendation submitted on behalf of 194 applicants for eight junior faculty positions at an unidentified research university.

The study found patterns in which different kinds of words were more likely to be used to describe women, while other words were more often used to describe men. In theory, both sets of words were positive. There’s nothing wrong, one might hope, with being a supportive colleague. But the researchers then took the letters, removed identifying information, and controlled for such factors as number of papers published, number of honors received, and various other objective criteria. When search committee members were asked to compare candidates of comparable objective criteria, those whose letters praised them for “communal” or “emotive” qualities (those associated with women) were ranked lower than others.

a week ago today: Feminist Friday #1

Thanks to all who joined us for this fun afternoon event.

I forgot my camera, so no actual pictures of Profs. Kate Sutherland and Shelley Kierstead in mid talk, no documentary pictures of the pizza (!) and cookies, no pictures of our Dean Lorne Sossin performing the seeming miracle of finding multiple connections between a talk on the legal battles of Lucy Maud Montgomery and the rise of parental alienation as a new concept in family law, no pictures of law students from all years filling the room,  no pictures of Osgoode’s newly renovated room 207, nor the radically unfinished rest of the renovation of our building, no pictures of the (fabulous) gifts we present to all our guest speakers, nor of the extraordinary administrative genius behind the IFLS, Lielle Gonsalves.   The collage is a mashed together after the fact attempt at reconstruction you might have seen had you been there.  Neither Kate nor Shelley has published anything on their topic yet, so it was a great opportunity for a preview of work to come.   Thanks to Mary Jane Mossman for pioneering the idea of Feminist Fridays!

I know I can’t really do justice to Kate’s talk or Shelley’s, but here’s a nutshell account of each:

Kate looked at Lucy Maud Montgomery’s rather reluctant engagement with the legal system in long battles with her (rather sleazy) American publisher.  Through LMM’s diaries and the chronology of the cases, a picture of a rather conventional person nevertheless determined that her publisher should not take advantage of her as a woman author emerged.  LMM’s court cases cost her money and some serious stress, though she was vindicated in the end.   The gendered aspects of the context are really interesting – LMM’s books weren’t considered high literature, but she was very successful and thus had the funds to litigate against the publisher, whereas the more respected but less well remunerated Poets on his list could not.  Her detailed accounts of her experiences are revealing in terms of social mores about litigation and the kinds of pressure that the Publisher used to try to gain the upper hand, with varying levels of success.  Kate’s perspective as a writer of fiction and a fan of LMM, as well as a legal expert, brings a unique frame to this piece of Canadian/women’s/legal/history.

Shelley explored the use of critical discourse analysis to investigate the way that Parental Alienation Syndrome has recently received judicial and media attention in Canada.  She argued that the Syndrome is usually portrayed in highly gendered ways – describing mothers unfairly alienating children from fathers.  Judges professing to be at a loss for what to do have at times agreed that children should be sent to special intensive programs located in the U.S. for a kind of “deprogramming”.  Shelley remarked that the law states that the focus ought to always remain on the best interests of the child – probably not best met by sending them involuntarily to treatment programs, but also that both media reports and many judges appear ill informed about the nature and incidence of parental alienation, presenting a decontextualised account which appears as a threat to mothers with custody – a new accusation which could be levelled against them. As family law expert, Shelley offered an alternative account of PAS, and linked the tropes appearing in the media to what she described as an increasing assumption (with problematic gendered effects) that shared parenting responsibility is the ideal post divorce/separation outcome.

DeanSossin had to bring these two pretty disparate presentations together.  He did that handily – I almost had to cut him off, he had so many points of connection to share.  One which I found particularly interesting was about the way that settling disputes through court doesn’t often lead to ideal outcomes – in LMM’s case, it took years and lots of money before she was vindicated, and she was subjected to the public exposure that she didn’t want,.  For the families who end up in court to settle separation/divorce and child custody issues, there is a vast array of literature on the ways that court at best settles only a fraction of the issues and at worst provides a new way to increase the emotional and economic damage.

So – thanks again – see you October 29!