Persistence Despite Change: The Academic Gender Gap in Australian Law Schools

Angela Melville, Amy Barrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research has shown that while women have entered the legal profession in increasing numbers, the profession continues to privilege the norms, beliefs, and cultural practices of men. However, one aspect of the legal profession that has largely been overlooked, especially in Australia, is legal academia. This oversight is significant as legal academia provides the gateway into the legal profession. Women now make up approximately half of universities’ academic staff, are increasingly completing doctorate qualifications, and are moving into senior positions within academia. On the surface, these changes may suggest that women are now fully integrated into academia and that the academic gender gap has now resolved. We argue, however, that numerical inclusion does not necessarily challenge the male normative structures that underlie legal academia. This article draws on analysis of the biographies of seven hundred legal academics in Australian law schools and investigates differences between male and female legal academics in terms of level of appointment, academic qualifications and professional experience, research productivity, research interests, and mobility. It shows that while the gender gap has closed in some areas, the feminization of legal academia is a myth and female academics continue to face gendered barriers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-634
Number of pages28
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number2
Early online date9 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • academia
  • Law Schools
  • Gender inequality
  • Australia


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