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Women, Law and Leadership: Home

Helping to Move Global and National Policy Development in the field of Women's Leadership and Gender Equality

Women, Law and Leadership

Women, Law and Leadership is a Penn Law initiative profiling women's leadership in law and business, and developing indicators and policy imperatives to accelerate the goals of gender equality and diversity.

A New Era of Equality: Redefining Leadership through a Lens of Allyship: Thomson Reuters Institute, September 15, 2020

On Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at 12:00 pm, Thomson Reuters will hold a program featuring a discussion on the ‘first of its kind’, ground-breaking research collaboration between Thomson Reuters and University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law School.


Members of the research group will present their findings from a study conducted on the perceptions of men from Generation Z around gender equality and allyship.  They will also share stories from the portrait narratives being produced on survey respondents. This session will also feature distinguished leaders who will provide their thoughts on the survey, what the results reveal about the future direction of inclusion in the workforce and how the next generation will shape the future of work.

Registration for this program is now open.

First Collaborative Report with Thomson on Allyship Released

Male allyship is critical in the evolution of gender equality programs in the workplace. Indeed, when men are included in gender equality programs, 96% of organizations see progress — compared to only 30% of organizations when men are not engaged, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Now, a first of its kind study examined how emerging male leaders in law and business, specifically law students, construct their idea of what it means to be an ally to women, especially women of color. In this randomized study done in collaboration with Penn Law students and Thomson Reuters, we analyze how these emerging leaders build allyship in ways that could alter the concept of leadership in the future.

In a white paper, "Allyship: Upstander v. Bystander", Rangita de Silva de Alwis examines the study and looks at a way to frame the various intersections of race, gender, and multiple identities in the context of allyship as a guide in addressing different forms of system and structural bias. 

Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor and Former Dean, Harvard Law School, sends congratulations

"This inspiring project models collaborative and inclusive leadership so ambitiously studied by dynamic students and their teacher." 
Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor and former Dean Harvard Law School

David Wilkins, Lester Kissel Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School


“I am honored to have motivated this important project.” 

David Wilkins, Lester Kissel Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School

Cary Coglianese, Senior Advisor

“This project could not come at a more crucial time. The world faces innumerable challenges calling out for positive legal change, and women everywhere are key to leading that change. The research produced through the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Women, Law and Leadership Initiative not only inspires but offers valuable insights and lessons as women lead the way forward toward a more just world.”

Cary Coglianese, Edward B. Shils Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science; Director, Penn Program on Regulation

Roberto Unger, Distinguished Leader and Advisor

"I am pleased to participate in this important project on the study of  leadership."

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Roscoe Pound Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Former Minister of Strategic Affairs, Brazil



Project Reports

The University of Pennsylvania dedicates the report on the 20th Anniversary to Under Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka in honor of her relentless advocacy on behalf of the WPS agenda, which she has called the "crowning achievement" of the global women's rights agenda.

We also dedicate our work to Amal Clooney, for her unparalleled human rights advocacy and for her critical support of UNSCR 2467 on conflict- related sexual violence.  As she said then, this is indeed our "Nuremberg moment." 

Project Leadership

Seminar and Project Director
Rangita de Silva de Alwis
Associate Dean of International Affairs
Nonresident Leadership Fellow at the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (2019-2020)
Student Leaders
Katherine Schroeder
Lindsay Holcomb
Sarah Heberlig
Michael Machado
Eduarda Lague
Farah Chalisa
Chukfumnanya Ekhator
Astrid Lindfelt
Kunal Kanodia
Catherine Zhang
Allie Gottlieb
Cassandra Dula
Guide Editor
Gabriela Femenia
Associate Director for Collections and Foreign & International Law Librarian

Contributions to Guiding Principles on Inclusive Distance Learning and Legal Hackathon

Women, Law and Leadership Projects at Penn Law

  • The Women, Law and Leadership Ideas Lab was an incubator for innovative ideas. It was a platform for students to test ideas, to create, and to experiment. Most of all, it was a space for students to ask questions on the under representation of women in leadership and how that hurts the global economy, hampers the diversity of thought, and undermines the public good. The concept for our Lab led by Rangita de Silva de Alwis was to research and develop a wide range of policy initiatives on women’s leadership. The goal will not just be to study and recommend adoption of best practices but to explore and innovate new practices. The students ideated and discussed solutions to address the under representation of women in leadership and the future of work.  
  • What cannot be measured, cannot be managed. The proposed Gender Index will provide a clear conceptual framework, consistent methodology and a valuable tool to track the progress and map the measures taken by companies to meet diversity goals. The index will help to examine the correlation between diversity and productivity, identify obstacles that exist in achieving the goals, and provide a platform to highlight progress, spark debate, and prompt others to learn by example from the best- in class companies.
  • These interviews by the members of the class on Women, Law, and Leadership offer analysis and insights into some of the most significant changes in leadership from a gender perspective. Despite the primary focus on women’s leadership in law and business, we explored gender as only one axis of difference and expanded our analysis to cover the shape-shifting nature of leadership across political economies and across different periods of socio-economic change. Nonetheless, the overarching theme remains that global and transnational transformations impact women’s work in law and business in the US. By interviewing women from different generations both in terms of age and political shifts, the narratives attempt to capture the richness of different gender perspectives across geography, race, ethnicity, religious, cultural, and political diversity in women’s leadership, its underlying tensions, intersectionalities, and commonalities. The generational themes are mined further in interviews that are conducted between mother and daughter and in an especially poignant interview between student Emily Brody-Bizar and her grandmother, Judge Anita Brody. ​

    This work is dedicated to Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University, and  Professor Deborah Rhode,Stanford Law School, who define moral leadership in the twenty-first century.
  • In 2017, under the distinguished leadership of UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (former Vice President of South Africa), and Irina Bokova, the Secretary-General of UNESCO (the leading female candidate for UN Secretary-General in 2016), Penn Law launched the Global Women’s Leadership Project. The Project, the first of its kind, was distinctive in its unique vision: to bolster the primacy of SDG Goal 5 C’s target on gender equality law reform through research support for UN Women’s and UNESCO’s work on gender-based justice sector reform.  From 2017-2019, Penn Law’s Global Women’s Leadership Project (GWLP) provided research for UNESCO and UN Women in support of their work on women, peace, and justice and women’s human rights. 
  • The UN Women's Family Law Database, developed by the Global Women's Leadership Project, provides information on laws that govern women’s status in the family, identifying laws that govern property, inheritance, custody, guardianship, marriage, divorce, residence, citizenship, domicile, age of marriage, guardianship, female genital mutilation (FGM), “husband obedience “ and sex-selective laws. The database currently covers the 54 African countries; the 19 civil law countries in Latin America* and 32 states of Mexico; the 51 independent states of Europe; Israel; India; and Pakistan. Research is ongoing.