Someone posted this on a social media, and this made me think.
A few days ago, a good friend of mine asked me ‘how many of the note-takers in meetings are female?’ I am assigned to quite time-consuming minute-making duties by two separate institutions in my roles, and I see that definitely more women are tasked to notetaking than men in my academic circles. There are more female support staff, and definitely more female part-time staff at the university I work for now.
My friend also asked me ‘if you are to ask someone to take notes of a meeting, who do you ask? Do you ask female students more than male students?’ Thinking about that, for me, is in fact about the same, or maybe a bit more on male than female students.
But her questions triggered my thoughts. Are there any unconscious gender assumptions that hinder female students learning and pursuing careers? Yes, a lot. Having many women and girls being in their expected gender roles, are there any areas where insufficient considerations for female students hinder their learning and pursuing careers? Yes, a lot.
This post is not to say anything new. It is just to remind us to be mindful of the possible bias.
First I would like you to meet the team. From left to right: Mr. Timothy Massie, researcher for this team; Ms. Mei Kanehera, first mooter; and Mr. Chris Clayton, second mooter. They are all 2nd year in an undergraduate programme at the University of Tokyo. Not law students.
This is the moot problem for this year, addressing issues of jurisdiction, conflict classification, perfidy, violence to life in a non-international armed conflict, genocide, and individual responsibility of ordering, aiding and abetting, and common purpose responsibility. In other words, highly technical legal issues.
They are a dream team, full of excitement and wonder, always friendly and mutually supportive, never aggressive or rude, and they can control themselves, stay firm and make solid public speeches. The first time they have heard about International Humanitarian Law (IHL) was April 2020 in my class, allured by their friends. I ran the course at a high pace, they followed. We were lucky to have had a series of amazing IHL lawyers talk to us in my class, which I opened to public: Prof. Francoise Hampson, Commissioner of UN Commission of Inquiry for Burundi, Former ICJ judge Hisashi Owada, Prof. Noam Lubell from Essex University, Prof. Agnieszka Jachec-Neale from University of Exeter, and Vic Ullom from UN-Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The team absorbed.
At some point, their button was pressed. I do not know if it was the oral practice rounds, the amazing special guest seminars, or their own research, reading and reciting. They have clearly opened the Pandora’s box. They were researching, comparing cases at various tribunals, asking and debating highly technical questions, writing memorials, reciting oral pleadings, practice, review, practice… The more they learn, the more they need to learn. Their interest, dedication and energy was amazing. Under a huge pressure, they kept enjoying and smiling and kept being their friendly selves.
For a few weeks before the competition, they were in their top gears – in the place that they themselves did not even know exist. THAT is where I so wish to take my students. THAT is the place that my former PhD supervisor at Essex University, Prof. Francoise Hampson, pushed me to discover. I remember her telling me that ‘Now, you ARE in the top gear’, and that day and the following week was a time and space that I had never imagined. I could do much more than I believed. The clear picture of my entire thesis clearly emerging in my brain like a 3D diagram. The sense of knowing exactly which string to pull to get to the next point. The clearly organized traffic of arguments. The sense of being above my 600+ page thesis.
Clearly, any limit we see is created by ourselves. The comfort zone is illusion. One’s potential is, definitely, limitless. THAT I wished the team to discover and experience. Once you discover THAT, you know you can do it. I am forever thankful to Francoise for pushing me to that point, and I think… my education style is inherited from her. Not to claim the same by any means, but what I appreciated, I try to do it myself, too. Education style can be passed on.
This year at IHL Moot Asia Pacific Round, my team from the University of Tokyo, Team 03, got to the final round and won 2nd place. Purely amazing. On top of that, Mei received 2nd best mooter prize, Chris received 3rd best mooter prize, and the Team’s prosecution memorial received 3rd place.