My pleasure and satisfaction in my career has been provided by the continuum of teaching, examining and writing in the conflict of laws, which I have been privileged to enjoy at Glasgow over many decades. I note with especial gratitude the fruitful writing partnership enjoyed with Professor Janeen Carruthers. Particular highlights have been the publication in 1998 of the first edition of my book International Private Law, and my elevation in 2006 to a personal Chair in International Private Law on the basis of professional output delivered on a part-time contract, balancing family life and work commitments. Recognition by the University took a while!
Further, I should like to record the intellectual stimulation I have derived from participation in the harmonisation of private international law on a European and international level. The first years of the twenty-first century have been a defining era in the development of the subject at a supranational level and Professor Carruthers and I have enjoyed working on the creation and refinement of harmonised rules across the subject area. The ambitious scale and span of this international project was not foreseen when I began my career.
“Women in law are…”
… now ubiquitous and demonstrate eminence and distinction in all areas of legal endeavour.
What struggles have you faced as a female in your profession?
I suspect that when I commenced in legal practice and then from 1976 in academia there were problems of perception by men as to the abilities and ambitions of women. Indeed one male colleague remarked on the presence in the Law Building of ‘mediocre married women’ and then had to apologise to each married woman assuring her that he did not intend to demean her! I recall extremely able female academic colleagues for whom the career ceiling was the status of Senior Lecturer.
In practical terms, it was not thought unreasonable in a crowded Building to expect several female colleagues to share an office whereas male colleagues, however junior, were allocated a personal office – a small point, but characteristic of how women in the University were treated. It was even the case that part-time members of staff (typically women) were excluded from the pensions scheme.
In the 1970s and 1980s, in the absence of appraisal, mentoring and personal development schemes, junior and intermediate status academic colleagues were not encouraged to seek rapid promotion. This was true of both sexes. Nonetheless, as my career has progressed and I have come to have a very productive writing partnership with my colleague, my feeling remains that works written by women, however compendious and authoritative, may be less highly regarded than equivalent (or lesser!) works written by men.
What progress have you seen being made for women throughout your career?
I observe that women have made great progress at the Bar, on the Bench and in academia, but problems of advancement still remain for women (or to be accurate, for mothers) in practice in the private sector. It is clear to me that there is a correlation between the availability of flexible working hours and prospects of career advancement.
What progress do you think will be made/would you like to see made in the next 100 years for women in law?
The number of women entering the legal profession in Scotland is increasing rapidly. Over the next 100 years it seems inevitable that in private practice we shall see many more firms headed by a female managing partner and female solicitors better represented on the management board. It must also be the case that no branch of the law or area of legal practice should be considered a male preserve.
How can men support women in their profession?
It is to be hoped that law firms in Scotland will recognise the benefits of flexible working, acknowledging that excellent service to clients can be delivered outside traditional offices and traditional office hours.
Elizabeth Crawford graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1971 and has since enjoyed a career in academia spanning over five decades. Formerly Professor of International Private Law, Elizabeth’s research has focused on the EU programme of harmonisation of civil and commercial law, and family law, particularly property and succession. She has contributed evidence on post-Brexit Family Law matters to UK and Scottish Parliaments, and the Scottish Government's Standing Council on Brexit. She has submitted evidence to the House of Lords European Union Committee, with Janeen Carruthers, on the EU’s regulation of succession and published on a range of private international law fields. Co-author, with Janeen Carruthers, of International Private Law: A Scots Perspective. She became one of the first female Professors of Law at the University of Glasgow, when she was appointed Professor of International Private Law in 2006.