Dr Nikki Godden-Rasul (Newcastle University Law School)

Portraits of Women in Law: Why they matter for gender equality in law schools and the legal professions

International Women’s Day Guest-Speaker

This paper explores law school portraits of women in law as a means by which to challenge the over-representation of men in law. Portraiture is a long-standing means by which professions celebrate worthy individuals and reproduce institutional values. In relation to the legal profession, portraits are predominantly of men and link law with masculine attributes, contributing to the visual and actual marginalisation of women in law’s past and present.

With the centenary of women being granted access to the legal profession to practise law, recently there have been celebrations which include or have specifically focused on increasing the visual representation of women in law, such as in portraiture or statues. However, while there is a growing literature on women’s legal history, there has been little academic attention paid to the visual representation of women in law, and the role this plays in shaping the relationship between gender, law, and the legal profession.

This paper seeks to analyse this relationship in the context of UK law schools, arguing that this is an important way to challenge gender inequalities in law, law schools, and the legal profession, and that, on boarder reflection, more attention should be paid to the visual culture of law schools. It provides a snapshot of the gender dimensions of university and law school portraiture in the UK, before analysing the Inspirational Women of the Law exhibition (www.iwlaw.uk) at Newcastle Law School as a means of disrupting the dominant gendered visual order in law, and the gendered hierarchies of the legal profession.

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School of Law
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