Panel explores women in academia

Ilana Berger

The role of women in academics was discussed during a panel hosted by NYU’s Law Women on Oct. 6 in Vanderbilt Hall. The panel is part of their ongoing series called “Day in the Life.”

The panel, which included NYU Law professors Lauren Roth and  Catherine Sharkey, along with NYU professor and American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Lee Rowland, gave students the opportunity to listen to and engage with women who have high-profile jobs in the field of academia.

One major topic of discussion was how to balance the challenges and rewards of a typical workday in academia.

“After class, I leave time for students to access me, although most of my time is spent commenting on their writing and preparing for the next day,” Roth said. “The hard thing about being a junior staff member is finding time to get pieces published.”

Students and other attendees also heard from Roth about the difficulties of working as an academic compared to other legal fields that the panelists had worked in previously.

“I loved and sometimes miss the fast pace of employee benefits law and litigation,” Roth said. “I was happy to work long hours with relevant legal issues. Self-motivation and isolation are challenging in academia, but if I’m working in isolation, it’s on a subject that I enjoy.”

The consensus among panelists was that working in academia allows for more independence.

“When I was in practice doing appellate litigation, I was surprised by how intellectually [engaging] it was,” Sharkey said. “Now, I can set up [my] own research agenda and pursue it.”

Several students in the audience asked about the issue of gender gaps in the legal field and wondered if they existed to the same extent in academia.

“The imbalance is definitely less in academia,” Roth said. “There tends to be a bigger gender gap in social sciences, but it is welcoming to women who want to push forward.”

Sharkey emphasized this point when asked about what advice she would offer current law students.

“Try to cultivate faculty recommenders,” Sharkey said. “Getting involved while in law school is important.”

NYU Law student April Yates said she found the panel enlightening because, though she said she is planning on joining a law firm in the future, she is still considering going into academia.

“I learned that the nature of law is that you constantly have to be prepared for the next step,” Yates said. “My mindset has been about studying law rather than teaching it. I don’t like the idea of closing any doors. I wanted to preserve the option of academia.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 7 print edition. Email Ilana Berger at [email protected]

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