If you have cable, chances are you’ve seen Audi’s latest commercial depicting a dramatic sequence of events as a woman fills up her car at a gas station. Men stare in shock, a dog barks, and police officers run towards the station in an attempt to stop her from making the grave mistake of filling the car with diesel fuel. Little do they all know, the model shown in the ad is designed to be filled with diesel. The woman clearly knows this and seems surprised at the overreacting bystanders. What stood out to me was why they were reacting that way in the first place. Their reactions seem to go beyond a simple misconception about a car to preconceived notions about female drivers. It’s advertisements like this one that make me think about the role that gender stereotypes can play both inside and outside law school.
The concept of justice is often personified as a woman wearing a blindfold and carrying scales, often referred to as “Lady Justice.” She is meant to represent the objectivity and balance that is part of the legal system. The common saying that “justice is blind” also speaks to this idea. People are supposed to be treated equally under the law, whether they are men or women.
I’m thankful to be part of a generation that has broken down “traditional” definitions of male and female and the position that each should fill in society. There is no doubt that progress has been made since the days of law schools being entirely occupied by men. Still, when I watch channels like ESPN play commercials like the one from Audi or others portraying women as ignorant when it comes to cars, I realize that more needs to be done. The fact that there is still a discussion over “the glass ceiling” in America is a good indication that we are not yet where we need to be as a country when it comes to gender equality.
Women face certain obstacles that men never have to deal with. In the workplace, employers might factor in the potential of a woman to become a mother into their hiring decisions. This can be even more troublesome for women working in the legal field, as it may impact their ability to advance at a firm. It is good to see that law firms are improving their practices to be both equitable and flexible, and female partners are much more common now than they used to be. Yet, the fact that women continue to have these difficulties and could be put at a disadvantage should motivate others to push for further improvements so that all those with similar levels of skill are treated equally.
Today law schools classes are basically equal when it comes to the amount of men and women in them. It’s a wonderful thing, and I believe the discussions that happen in class are enhanced by the diversity of perspectives. Learning from those who have had experiences we may never have makes us all better students and better people. It’s the kind of education that continues throughout our lives. As long as we continue to watch and listen, we can help others to understand the value of equality and make it so the glassceiling is never talked about again.