Add Women and Stir: The Effect of Female Mentorship on Women’s Law School Experiences

Head shot for Riley Smith

Name: Riley Smith
Major: Political Science-US National Politics
Minor: German Studies
Advisors: Dr. Angie Bos, Désirée Weber (second reader)

This study examines the effect of female mentorship on women’s experiences in law school. Previous literature indicates seven areas in which women’s experiences differ from men’s: their attitudinal changes over time in law school, their relationships with professors, their participation in class, their perception of their academic achievement, their feelings of alienation, and their confidence. In every way, women’s experiences are worse than men’s. Some mentorship literature suggests that these experiences could be improved by female mentorship, though other literature demonstrates that female mentorship has no effect. Therefore, I ask, what is the effect of female mentorship on women’s experiences in law school? I hypothesize that women with female mentors will have less attitudinal change, better relationships with professors, higher levels of participation, improved perception of their academic achievement, reduced feelings of alienation, increased confidence, and more political ambition. Through a survey and a series of interviews, I find partial support for these hypotheses. There is support for the hypotheses in the qualitative analysis of the open-ended questions and interview responses, though no support for the hypotheses in the quantitative analysis of the survey results. The qualitative results indicate that, regardless of measurable quantitative effect, women seek out and gain from female mentorship, which has important implications. The literature surrounding political ambition finds that women, including women lawyers, are not as ambitious as their male counterparts. If female mentorship in law school can improve women’s experiences, making them more confident, they may be encouraged to run for political office.

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Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022 on April 26, 2022.

19 responses to “Add Women and Stir: The Effect of Female Mentorship on Women’s Law School Experiences”

  1. David McConnell says:

    Congratulations on completing your IS, Riley! It’s nice to see you’ve continued with a topic that is so closely related to your APEX internship. Best wishes for your post-graduation plans!

  2. Angie Bos says:

    Your project is so impressive and important, Riley! I love how this project reflects your interests in gender equity and the law – and how you impressively recruited so many current and recent law school students for your study. Well done! It was so fantastic to work with you as your advisor this year! -Prof. Bos

  3. Cathy Semel says:

    Great work! And an interesting angle for improving women’s experience in law!

  4. Michael Semel says:

    Riley—-What an impressive, polished video. Your public speaking/presentation skills continue to shine! I appreciated your efforts to better understand pipeline issues that perpetuate underrepresentation of women. Was curious if your data offered any surprises in the percentage of students of any gender who identified having a faculty mentor in law school at all? While Wooster places such high value and priority on mentorship, was wondering if law schools in general have the same degree of deliberate investment. Great job with this project!

  5. Lily Anderson says:

    This is really interesting, Riley! You did such a great job!

  6. Bas van Doorn says:

    Congrats on completing a great IS on a really important topic, Riley!

  7. Natalie Noyes says:

    Riley, what a stirring topic that is near to my heart. I love seeing what you’ve accomplished!

  8. Saralee says:

    Good job, Riley! You’re gonna do so good in law school. #strong

  9. Kent Kille says:

    I remember seeing your poster presentation at the Political Science event in fall semester, great to see the completed project now!

  10. Alvaro Corral says:

    Riley: Great Job! I appreciated how you revised your expectations based on the quantitative results. I think you’re definitely onto something with regard to those students feeling a sense of alienation seeking out female mentors.
    Great study–very impressive!

  11. Clare Leithauser says:

    Congrats Riley, this is very interesting! What was the most challenging thing you faced during your research?

  12. Hannah Groetsch says:

    Yay Riley! Great presentation, and can’t wait for you to kill it at law school next year (and who knows maybe become a law school influencer??)!

  13. Georgia Hopps-Weber says:

    This was an excellent presentation Riley (love the pink powerpoint!!). Best of luck with law school next fall!

  14. Amy Groetsch says:

    Great job, Riley!

  15. Carly McWilliams says:

    Riley, thanks for sharing this excellent research! Eagerly awaiting the film adaptation à la Legally Blonde ❤️

  16. Brian Luck says:

    Congrats on a fantastic IS, Riley!

  17. Carolyn Klein says:

    Congrats, Riley! This is such a cool project and I can’t wait to see you absolutely kill it at law school!

  18. Abby McFarren says:

    Congrats Riley! You and your project are very cool!

  19. Maya Rodemer says:

    What… like it’s hard??
    Congrats Riley!! So proud of you!

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