Law schools have increasingly sorted along gender lines, and the makeup of faculties has become a reflection of schools’ student population, according to preprint research published on the SSRN, an open-access platform for early-stage research.

Before 1970, the gender breakdown of a law school’s faculty was not highly correlated with its student body, but the relationship has grown stronger in the decades since, researchers found. Now, if a law school has more female faculty members, it’s likely to have more women as students.

Higher-ranked schools have tended toward fewer women faculty members since the 1980s. In 2020, U.S. law schools with a national ranking of 51 or lower, known as Tier 3 schools, had roughly the same number of male and female professors. But law schools consistently ranked 14 or higher, Tier 1 schools, only had about two female professors for every five male professors.

Law schools enrolled virtually no women through the first half of the 20th century. But the 1960s saw a number of cultural and policy changes, such as federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination in certain types of work and colleges removing rules barring women from the classroom.

After that, the number of female law students grew rapidly through the early 1970s, researchers wrote. In 1960, no U.S. law school enrolled more than 20% women. By 1975, over 90% of schools enrolled between 20% and 40% women.

But the percentage of women enrolled in law schools stabilized shortly thereafter. By 2000, women still hadn’t achieved parity with men in enrollment at the higher-ranked schools, despite women being 56.1% of college students overall that year.

A fair amount of research exists on the law schools that were most welcoming to women, according to Elizabeth Katz, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the paper’s authors. But that leaves a gap in context, she said.

“Fewer people want to study the law schools that have a bad record,” said Katz. “But of course, that’s a really important part of the story to understand as well.”

Women in law professorships and dean positions lagged further behind, with their representation growing more slowly than that of students. Faculties experience lower turnover than student bodies and have far lower numbers anyway. With less movement, there’s less room for change.

Read the full article about law schools' educator employment by Laura Spitalniak at Higher Education Dive.