Before she was a presidential candidate and United States Senator, Elizabeth Warren was undeniably one of Harvard University’s most popular law professors. While teaching the next generation of attorneys and lawmakers, Warren also practiced law, both pro bono and fee-for-service.
This past week, The Washington Post tweeted a headline for an article revealing that Warren billed $675/hour when working on corporate bankruptcy cases. Crafted to incite outrage by the Twitterverse, this line of sexist attack was a reminder of the 2016 election when Hillary Clinton was chastised for charging market rate speaking fees. Men who are running for office face little to no scrutiny for earning money. So why should women? #Sexism2020
Within the Washington Post story, the authors offer that “Warren’s $675-per-hour rate of compensation to consult on several asbestos-related cases, as described in court documents, was at or below market rate for her level of experience and was less than what some law firm partners charged to work on the same matters.” The article also included an anecdote about how clients pushed back at Warren’s billing rate and how she fought to prove that her rate was justified— as a non profit-sharing attorney with two decades of experience as one of the country’s foremost bankruptcy attorneys. Supporters flooded the Post’s tweet with replies like “Your misogyny is showing” and “If this was a white man you’d have said ‘charging as little as $675.’”
In response to this sexist hubbub over Warren’s hourly rate, author Rebecca Traister tweeted that when writing an article about Warren years ago, her editors forced her to tone down the testimonials in the piece because they were “too over-the-top positive.” Stories of Warren’s egalitarian practices as a professor ensued, including how then Professor Warren made sure that all of her students were called on during the course of a two-day instructional period and that she made it a point to email any questions asked during office hours to all students to make sure no one had an unfair advantage. And at the end of each semester, Warren apparently invited her whole class over for brunch. These are the stories we need about the presidential candidate— those which reveal their character, values, and examples of their leadership.
Take Action! Don’t let the media get away with sexist double standards in 2020 election coverage. Call out bad headlines and bad takes wherever you see or hear them with the hashtag #Sexism2020.