Tag Archives: methodology

Back to Socratic Cold Calling? Yale Law Women monitor & Report on Gendered Participation at YLS

This study was a follow up of one conducted in 2002.
The history and key findings are set out here.

Classroom Dynamics

  • 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.
Hm, sound familiar to anyone?
For large classes, the study findings are clear – cold-calling produces the best gender balance.  I agree, although I have a variety of techniques I use to get my cold calling to a place where I can bear to do it.
Re use of M/F:
We added a third “unclear” gender category to recognize genderqueer and gender non-conforming students who do not either identify or express themselves as men or women. To be sure, this was necessarily
an imperfect approach, as it wholly refl ected the perspective of the classroom monitor (and whether it was “unclear” to them how a student gender-identified).   (19)
The study was done by and at Yale, so the world cares.  Super fun to go to the blogs that are covering it and read the comments! Perhaps not.
The study raises really interesting questions about the source of the problem and the appropriate solutions.  It provides some compelling empirical data that I feel sure would be echoed at other law schools.  I wonder if the number of women on the Faculty makes a difference, though.
For 2011-2012, 22 out of 104 Yale Law School professors were women (21.2%). When visiting, clinical, adjunct, and emeritus professors are excluded, there are 17 women professors out of 75. Of the 17 Visiting Professors, 4 were women (23.5%). Only one of 12 clinical professors is a woman (8.3%). (2)
In light of the recent discussion about grading practices and stress levels (prompted by U of T’s proposed grading scheme adjustment), which inevitably led to mention of Yale’s Honours/Pass/Fail system, I think the Report also highlights the way that competition, and stress, find their way into the law school anyway.
Without formal grades, large classes, or institutionalized benchmarks, faculty-student relationships play a crucial role in a student’s education and future opportunities. Furthermore, many students come to YLS with an interest in legal academia and/or judicial clerkships. Success in these areas requires faculty advocacy on the student’s behalf. (34)
The graph below indicates women are less comfortable approaching their professors in a variety of settings:

Here’s one other result that I find interesting:
Among professors interviewed, women faculty wrote signifi cantly more letters of recommendation. The 14 women interviewed reported writing 99 letters, an average of 7.1 letters per person, while the 40 men interviewed reported writing 158 letters, an average of 4.0 letters per person. (13)
The study mirrors the kinds of things that organizations like Catalyst are suggesting – that is, that environments may promote gendered pathways to success, that finding sponsors may be more difficult for women for a variety of reasons including the lack of women in the workplace, but also that women may need to recognize the ways that they are undercutting their own success by, well, not speaking up.
Of course, there are other questions we could ask, especially about classroom participation. What does it really serve, pedagogically? What are the students who are speaking gaining? What is the rest of the class gaining?  I wonder if we could design a study which would look at the reach of participation.  Is it that there are very frequent participators who are men?  In my classes, it seems that although the participation is overwhelmingly male, there are a substantial number of men who never participate.
Next steps?
  • Raise this study with your colleagues, friends and Profs.  Encourage them to read it, or provide them with the recommendations.
  • Replicate the Yale study?

Incidentally, a York colleague who went to Osgoode a number of years ago, Anne Bunting, mentioned to me that a study like this was done at Osgoode many years ago.  Anyone have a copy? Let me know.


H/T Kim Brooks.

"…the silences of research…": power dynamics of access in feminist research

This looked quite interesting.  SSRN has the abstract, but Sage Journals Online has the full text, here.   While it appears that other papers by the same group of authors (Hoyle, Bosworth, & Dempsey from Monash University, Oxford & Villanova) communicate the research findings, (the study was designed to find out “ from the women themselves, whether and why some were “rescued” in high profile police actions and offered temporary admission to the United Kingdom, whereas others languished in immigration removal centers and prisons, detained and incarcerat–ed for false documents or prostitution-related offences. How had these women survived? Who had helped them? What had they experienced?”),  this paper takes on methodological issues in feminist research, focused on institutional partners.  It’s quite an interesting read,  a careful exploration of the various reasons different agencies (NGO’s, service providers, state agencies) offered for denying access to the women who had been trafficked – essentially stymieing the research project.

The authors write:

The agencies working with them may have been right to worry about the risk of revictimization and query whether the value of academic research is worth the risk—but ironically, in so doing, they themselves may have further silenced the very women whose stories need to be understood.

Having to tell the story is, certainly, in some contexts, described as a revictimization – but this is usually because the story is not believed or supported.  These researchers had experience in similar kinds of interviews .  More surprisingly, “we faced skepticism not just from criminal justice employees but also from the voluntary sector. Perhaps most confounding of all, those with whom politically we felt most aligned were wary. Feminist activist research, in this context, had little purchase. Rather, case workers and advocates were clearly anxious that we would revictimize the women they were assisting.”

Part of the point appears to be how changing feminist positions have rendered feminist researcher uncertain allies for some NGO’s.  Even after reading the article (forgive me, since i’m doing this on a family event holiday, in a hotel room with children and 60 assorted relatives about the place), I wasn’t quite sure how to read this paragraph:

If academics are to obtain access to victims of trafficking,  then they need to persuade victim advocates to trust them. Whereas once, this might have been a straightforward feminist matter, one that women scholars and policy makers could agree on, the decades of dispute over consent and coercion in prostitution and victims services, have taken a heavy toll. Part of the work that needs doing, in other words, is a political one: a more open discussion from all sides over the nature, causes, and effect of sexual violence and prostitution.
So, too, our experiences on this project suggest that it may be necessary in some research to devise a series of publications, some of which are not purely academic.
Perhaps, we could have been more persuasive if we had been able to offer the organizations something more useful
than a set of scholarly articles.

Lots to think about in terms of the why of what is known at my institution as “knowledge mobilization”, but also about the status of academic research.  NGO’s, producing their own work, aren’t always interested in allowing researchers (an unknown, unfettered quantity) in, and state organizations, for different reasons, aren’t either.

Here is the abstract::

ABSTRACT:  This article exposes methodological barriers we encountered in a small research project on women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and our attempts, drawing on feminist and emergent methods, to resolve them. It critically assesses the role of institutional gatekeepers and the practical challenges faced in obtaining data directly from trafficking victims. Such difficulties, it suggests, spring at least in part from lingering disagreements within the feminist academic, legal, and advocacy communities regarding the nature, extent and definition of trafficking. They also reveal concerns from policy makers and practitioners over the relevance and utility of academic research. While feminist researchers have focused on building trust with vulnerable research participants, there has been far less discussion about how to persuade institutional elites to cooperate. Our experiences in this project, we suggest, reveal limitations in the emphasis on reflexivity in feminist methods, and point to the need for more strategic engagement with policy-makers about the utility of academic research in general.

Finally, it is always great to read an article which delves deeply into a “research failure” and derives important questions and ideas from a seeming defeat.  Grad students, take note!

via Researching Trafficked Women: On Institutional Resistance and the Limits to Feminist Reflexivity by Michelle Dempsey, Mary Bosworth, Carolyn Hoyle :: SSRN.

Dempsey, Michelle Madden , Bosworth, Mary and Hoyle, Carolyn, Researching Trafficked Women: On Institutional Resistance and the Limits to Feminist Reflexivity (November 1, 2011). Qualitative Inquiry, Vol. 17, p. 769, 2011; Villanova Law/Public Policy Research Paper No. 2011-21. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1961745 (yorku subscription link here)

CFP Methodologies: InterUni Grad Legal Studies Conference at Cornell (deadline Jan 6)

Cornell Graduate Legal Studies has this CFP “Changing Faces in Legal Thinking: Revisiting Legal Methodologies” up, looks so interesting. Deadline on CFP is Jan 6.

One of the most fun discussions in any viva/dissertation defence is always the one about methodological choices.  I learnt that trick from my mentor Toni Williams, now at Kent.  It produces a very rich discussion with form and substance intertwining – every time.  Also, Cornell = Ithaca = Moosewood Restaurant (which is on the list of things which keep coming up this week, strangely).

Legal scholarship has benefited from this methodological richness. This conference aims to further a more refined and sophisticated understanding of the use of interdisciplinary methodological tools. We can now critically reflect on the limitations, shortcomings, and challenges of employing interdisciplinary methodologies in the analysis of law. To that end, this conference hopes to stimulate a discussion that will reevaluate and refine our methodological techniques, addressing questions such as are there certain research methods that are privileged, and if so why? What sources do we rely on for our data? Are there sources and voices that are being excluded? How do our methods impact on and shape our research agendas?
We seek papers that combine substantive legal scholarship with a clear use of methodological tools. To be clear, we are not exclusively seeking papers that directly or explicitly analyze methodology, but we expect authors to be able to explain the methodological approach used in their papers, critically reflect on the choices made, and elaborate on how such methodological commitments have influenced some of the substantive points made.