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October 25, 2021 Asked and Answered

When most of law school faculty were straight white men, how did those who were not bring change?

By Stephanie Francis Ward

In the late 1980s, law school groups for gay and lesbian students met off campus in case members didn’t want the school community to know their sexual orientation, says Joan Howarth, who started her teaching career in 1989 as a visiting professor at the University of California at Davis School of Law.

And there were so few female faculty at law schools, if two or more were seen together talking, male faculty would ask what they were up to. So if they were actually up to something, such as persuading their dean to adopt a faculty parental leave policy that was longer than a few weeks, they would meet off campus, too, according to Sean Scott, who also started her academic career in 1989 as a professor at Loyola Marymount University’s Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Both women are featured in this month’s Asked and Answered podcast, which is looking at how work environments have changed for female law school faculty. It’s part of a special series on how lawyers’ work has changed over the years.

Send ideas for future episodes to ABA Journal Senior Writer Stephanie Francis Ward.

In This Podcast

Joan Howarth

Joan Howarth is a visiting professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas’ William S. Boyd School of Law. Previously, she was the dean of the Michigan State University College of Law. Her academic work focuses on attorney licensing and LGBT legal history.

Sean Scott

Sean Scott is the dean and president of the California Western School of Law. She previously was a senior associate dean and professor at Loyola Marymount University’s Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Her academic interests include legal education, contracts and disability rights.

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