What disparities are women students of color facing in law school?

A higher percentage of female minority law students do not have a positive view of their school's race relations and are not as satisfied with the overall law school experience than their peers, a new study finds

A majority of female minority law students do not view their school’s race relations policies favorably while most of their peers say otherwise, according to a recent study. Additionally, women students of color feel more inclined to leave law school and are not as satisfied with the overall experience as opposed to their classmates.

More than 4,000 students across 46 U.S. law schools shared these and other views in a study of disparities between women minority students and their peers by the Center for Women in Law and The NALP Foundation.

The study found the following:

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  • In 2017-18, only 40% of female students of color provided a positive rating for their school’s race relations policies as opposed to 70% of white men, 59% of men of color and 58% of white women.
  • A higher percentage (31%) of women minority students seriously considered leaving law school than men of color (26%), white women (24%), or white men (22%)
  • 82% of women students of color said they were satisfied with their overall law school experience as opposed to 89% of white women. Furthermore, 14% less women minorities reported that they were “extremely satisfied” than their white male peers.

“The current climate has really underscored the need to understand these disparities and to have these difficult discussions in order to make meaningful progress in our schools, but there are opportunities here that schools can embrace to develop strategies for improvement,” says Executive Director Veronica Vargas Stidvent of The Center for Women in Law, an educational institution devoted to the success of the entire spectrum of women in law.

Closing disparities for women minority students

Schools can improve the overall experience for women students of color by conducting student surveys while leaders form groups to generate solutions, says President and CEO Fiona Trevelyan Hornblower of the NALP Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides law career and education research.

“Where we see adverse race relations with faculty and students, there is an opportunity to unpack what those interactions look like, which can lead to positive changes in pedagogy and interactions in the classroom,” she adds.

Additionally, advisors and faculty should conduct career-related conversations with their women minority students. “During the second year, students usually take judicial clerkships, and we found that women of color have been advised to pursue lower levels than their white male peers,” says Stidvent. “Advisors, faculty and career services need to identify what information can be given to women of color to encourage and prove that there is a viable pathway to success.”

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