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ABA Journal Blawg 100: Where the Hell Are the Womens' Blawgs? (UPDATED)

ABA Journal Blawg 100Image by insidetwit via Flickr

Once again, the ABA Journal's Blawg 100 popularity contest has failed abysmally to include a fair cross spectrum of legal blogs. I've been silent for years on this issue, but this year, I've had enough. It's been a while since I wrote about women and blawgging, and I figure it's high time I addressed the issue once more.

Of the 100 blawgs nominated by the ABA staff as "the best and brightest law bloggers in a variety of categories," perhaps 10% are written by women.

Now one might think that there is a dearth of women attorneys blogging, but that's simply not the case. There are plenty of high quality blawgs written by women attorneys. But, for some reason, those blogs are largely ignored by the ABA Journal and other blog popularity contests.

For now, let's address the "legal tech" category, since technology blogs tend to be dominated by men. So one can only assume that if there are women lawyers blogging about tech, there are certainly a higher percentage of women authoring blogs that fall under the other Blawg 100 categories.

Of those 9 blawgs featured in the legal tech category, only one is authored by a woman: Sharon Nelson's blog, Ride the Lightening.

Are there other fabulous legal tech blawgs written by women that are largely ignored? You bet there are! Here are just a few of them:

There are plenty of well written, interesting law blogs written by women. They're just not getting the attention they deserve.

I'm tired of the ABA's tendency to focus on many of the same blawgs every year--and their absolute failure to include a comparable percentage of high quality blawgs written by women. It's troubling, to say the least.

(***Edited to tone down my rhetoric;)).

UPDATE #2

Martha Sperry has a great follow up post on this issue here.

UPDATE:

As I've mentioned in the past, blogging is changing and much of the discussion about blog posts occurs on other social media platforms and that was certainly the case with this post. Although there are a number of great comments below, there were also some great conversations and comments on Facebook and Twitter that merit inclusion in this blog post.

First, a number of people pointed out that they have been involved with the ABA's selection process (or know those involved) (Reginald F. Davis (@recessguy), Bob Ambrogi (@bobambrogi)), that many women participate in the process (Lisa Solomon (@lisasolomon)) and/or that they've seen no evidence of bias.

Others questioned my methodology which was arguably off the cuff and not exactly scientific, since I simply estimated numbers based on a cursory review of the nominees. Others pointed out that I failed to take into account the group blogs that were nominated and included women bloggers (Molly McDonough (@Molly_Mcdonough)). Finally, others suggested that there simply weren't enough women bloggers for there to be a 50/50 split or even a ratio close to that. Kelly Phillips Erb (@taxgirl) suggested (on Facebook) that another causative factor could be that male bloggers were better at promoting themselves.

In response, I noted that I considered the group blogs to be a wash since in general, there were still more male bloggers than women bloggers on most group blogs. My co-author, Carolyn Elefant(@carolynelefant), expressed a similar idea in a Facebook discussion about my post, stating that although there were "a large number of group blogs and professional blogs - like the BLT, blogwatch and other ALM blogs...it is very different blogging as an individual."

And if you exclude the group blogs, you're still looking at approximately a 90/10 split in favor of male bloggers. Secondly, I don't think a  50/50 split is necessary, but the ~90/10 split is disturbing and evidence of an unconscious bias (I'm certainly not alleging that there was intentional bias--I want to make that very clear). Or, as Bob Ambrogi noted on Twitter in a very diplomatic manner, if nothing else,  "the list shortchanges women."

Finally, I noted, along with a number of other people, that women, along with men, express an unconscious bias against other women without realizing it.

Jim Milles (@jimmilles) explained this quite eloquently on Twitter: "Women bloggers could easily internalize biases that tend to favor male bloggers as more authoritative." And Robert Richards (@Richards1000) cited a law review article that supported this theory: "Audrey Lee collects the cases & scholarship: http://bit.ly/gzPKj0 Unconscious Bias Theory in Employment Discrimination Litigation."

A related issue that was raised by my co-author, Carolyn Elefant, on Facebook was the lack of women speakers at many conferences. Carolyn stated: "Same on the speaker circuit. How many women lawyers are giving plenaries at the big conferences or even the solo shows? I did 3 plenaries this year and I was the only woman I've ever heard."

However, this issue was also discussed on Twitter, with Stephanie West Allen (@idealwg) noting that she'd never experienced that type of bias at all during her 25+ years speaking.

Finally, a number of people noted the lack of overall diversity in the selected blawgs, including Carolyn Elefant on Facebook (ethnic and racial diversity), and Andrew Weber (@atweber referring to government blawgs) and Ruth Carter (@rbcarter referring to student blawgs).

The bottom line: it's not a simple issue. In fact, some would call it a non-issue and claim the disparity has nothing to do with bias.Others, like myself, disagree.

I'm not sure who's right, but I do know that raising the issue elicited some really interesting discussion and it was beneficial for that reason alone.

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Comments

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Neil J. Squillante

bl1y, there's a lot of back story to which you're not privy so you don't have all the facts. Also, you cannot equate awards with an editorial calendar. I'm not suggesting that publications need to disclose how they select article topics. If you look at the main Blawg 100 Web page, you'll find no fewer than three uses of the word "best" and no mention of the word "favorite" as ascribed to the ABA Journal's editorial board. For example, consider the opening sentence (emphasis added)

"Welcome to the fourth annual ABA Journal Blawg 100 -- the best legal blogs as selected by the Journal's editors."

When you're dealing with awards and you use the word best you should have a formal selection process in place and a formal set of rules as to how those selected may and may not get out the vote, and fully disclose both.

bl1y

What you "should" do in regards to the selection process for awards, and the transparency of that process, all comes down to what the award is.

If I had BL1Y's Best Blog Award with a grand prize of 3 Wendy's Crispy Chicken Nuggets, would you be demanding to know just what brand of Scotch I got drunk on to sloppily pick a winner? No, because it's a dumb prize, so the criteria and transparency don't matter.

The ABA Blawg 100 isn't a scholarship fund or a spot at the BCS Championship game. It's a diversion for lawyers who otherwise spend their day tending to the mundane details of other people's lives.

Sure, the award would be more meaningful and respectable if there was a transparent, deliberative process, but most people accept it for what it is, a silly award given by a fairly insubstantial website.

And hey, I have as much reason to be upset about who was chosen as anyone else. The cohost of my podcast got picked while I didn't. I was ticked off. And then about 2 minutes later I stopped caring because it doesn't really matter. And now this morning I found an article I'd written was featured on CollegeHumor.com, which gets many orders of magnitude more traffic than the ABA Journal, so, you know, life and the internet go on.

Molly DiBianca

I should probably mention that I (a female) write the Delaware Employment Law Blog, which is 1 of 5 in the "In Labor" category. (And this is the second year in a row to be honored). The other 4 are written by males . . . but, had I been asked, I would have surely selected them as some of the best among employment law bloggers.

I do think that your observation is correct: there is not an "equal split." But I don't know that there needs to be. Honestly, the fact that you didn't realize that DELB is written by a female might say it all--gender is irrelevant, content is king (or queen).

That being said, I do agree that men tend to be better at self-promotion. I do recall seeing more than a few "calls for amici submissions" around the time the ABA Journal opened its Inbox to such recommendations. And I've never been so bold to suggest that my blog is worthy of the honor.

What can I say, I suppose I'd take the position that the ABA Journal, in my opinion, has really gotten it right each of the 4 years they've published this list, and I look forward to future years and the new blogs I find because of it.

Terri Weiss

Very interesting read.

I'm one of those who is impressed by the ABA Journal's top 100 list. Because it's the ABA, it's highly visible, etc. etc.

As a new blogger (only since August 2010), I already wish I were on their list and I'm kind of worried, especially now, that I'm not destined to be chosen by them ever, because: (i) my blog isn't strictly a 'blawg' (ugly-sounding word, isn't it?); (ii) I'm a woman (vs. 'Above the Law' - the most sexist blog out there- I can't believe it gets so many accolades!); and (iii) I don't know how to 'jockey for position.'

At least my friend Allison Leotta, Prime Time Crime Review, is on the list. I don't see any divorce blogs, though (am I missing something here? Or is that another snub?!)

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