Editors-in-chief of the top 16 law school journals — for the first time all women — convened Feb. 3 to acknowledge women’s advancement in law in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
The event, hosted by Duke Law at the Duke University in Washington, D.C. offices, brought together top legal scholars, university deans and all but one of the editors-in-chief of the top journals to celebrate the changing role of women in the law with speakers including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The cohort of entirely female editors is a momentous moment, especially since it coincides the 100th anniversary of the ratification of 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, according to Georgetown University Law Center Dean William Treanor.
“I participated in a symposium with all of the women editors in chief, which was a very powerful way to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment. I was proud that the Georgetown Law community was so well represented,” Treanor wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Women have been historically less inclined to apply to leadership positions than men. However, the sight of 16 female editors-in-chief together will hopefully encourage women to pursue law in the future, according to Wake Forest Law School Dean and former GULC law professor Jane Aiken.
“The fact that women took over the top 16 journals is a message to everyone out there: act, move forward, put your name in. Those are really important messages that we need to get to women,” Aiken said in an interview with The Hoya. “It’s pretty remarkable that this happened. I mean, it’s one thing when you have a majority of the top 16. But what are the chances that you would get all 16?”
This phenomenon of all-female leadership, however, can be considered a statistical anomaly, as the majority of the top-16 editor-in-chief positions will return to male students next year, according to Aiken.
At the event, the editors distributed the joint issue “Women and the Law,” a collaborative publication in which each law review sponsored an essay about female experiences in law.
Duke Law Journal Editor-in-Chief Farrah Bara launched the “Women and the Law” publication began, according to the former editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Law Journal Grace Paras (LAW ’20). While the top law journal editors-in-chief have collaborated in the past, this is the first year that they have ever published together, according to Paras.
“The fact that we came together and did that is the most significant part of it,” Paras said. “It just shows the strength of women in leadership. And it’s a little stereotypical, but I think in a good way it shows how collaborative of a leadership style it can be.”
In 2018, women made up more than a third of lawyers in the United States, but men were still the highest earners, according to the U.S. Census. While the gender gap is closing in entry-level legal positions, there is still a lack of gender equality in the top positions when considering roles of partners at large firms, according to statistics from the American Bar Association.
Despite the gender gap in law across the nation, women make up the majority of law students at GULC, according to Toni Deane (LAW ’21). She succeeds Paras as editor-in-chief, marking the first time a woman of color has held the position, according to Treanor.
“Though the percentage of women in the law is continuing to grow, it’s shocking how few female partners are in big law firms. I hope this role further proves why women should not, and cannot, be inhibited from pursuing what we put our minds to,” Deane wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Though progress is evident here at GULC, we clearly need to do more to impact the greater legal community.”
The all-female slate of law journal editors-in-chief will potentially spark a change in gender dynamics of the legal field, according to Paras.
“I hope that this kind of brief happy moment when we are all women can be maybe a sign of a spark of women, who not only get into law school or get into law review, but then who achieve the top positions,” Paras said.