HLS Video on Gender Disparities Prompts Criticism

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Harvard Law School's new coalition to combat gender disparities, called "Shatter the Ceiling," has certainly received national attention since the organization launched last month—just maybe not the response its leaders were looking for.

In a fiery piece for the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto slammed a video published by "Shatter" that tried to encapsulate the current situation for women at the Law School. Instead of agreeing with the coalition, which operates under the auspices of the Women's Law Association, Taranto concluded that the playing field was in fact tilted in favor of women as he reacted to complaints about the Socratic method and the gender breakdown at the Harvard Law Review.

According to Taranto, Harvard Law's attempt to maintain a nearly 1:1 gender ratio among its student body means that the Admissions office holds female applicants to a lower standard than it does male applicants.

Expanding on his views still further in a Wall Street Journal video, Taranto said that he would still hire a Harvard-trained lawyer, male or female—excluding those who appear in the "Shatter the Ceiling" video.

"If you're on trial for your life, you want a Harvard man representing you. Or, you want a Harvard woman—who is actually not in this video and is not whining but is actually doing the work," Taranto said.

Outgoing president of the Women's Law Association Stephanie Davidson coauthored a response to Taranto's piece with Nitzan Weizmann and Julie Brinn Siegel, the incoming president and vice president, respectively, of the WLA.

"Mr. Taranto assumes, without any evidence, that it is something innate in Harvard Law's women—their lack of equal talent and intelligence—which causes these disparities at Harvard," the HLS students wrote in the response. "That this was Mr. Taranto's instinctive explanation, and that he embraces it uncritically and without any empirical support, is alarming. In the process, he suggests Harvard Law School women are whiny and undeserving."

Davidson, Weizmann, and Siegel continue to outline the coalition's goals of acquiring data on the gender disparity at HLS and prompting real change throughout the community.

"The Socratic method was developed at Harvard Law School in the Julia Grant era," they wrote. "We want to develop law school education for the Michelle Obama age."

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