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Why more women are topping the bar

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:05:00 03/31/2008

Filed Under: Women, Education, Board Exams, Statistics, Gender Issues

MANILA, Philippines?More women are topping the bar and the recently released 2007 exam results attest to this.

Of the 12 examinees in the top 10 (there were ties for seventh and tenth place), nine were women.

The top four spots were occupied by women.

Although women do not always dominate the top tier, their presence in the top 10 since 2001 cannot be ignored.

The 2000, 2002 and 2006 bar exams all had six women make it to the top 10.

In 2001, three women were in the top 10. In 2003 and 2004, there were four on the list. In 2005, there were five.

Women were No. 1 in the 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2007 bar exams. In chronological order, they were: Arlene Maneja, January Sanchez, Joan de Venecia and Mercedita Ona.

University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez attributed the rising number of female topnotchers not only to the increasing number of female students, but to the women?s diligence in class.

Valdez observed that women tended to be more ?dedicated? to their studies.

?There are more working students among men, but that?s no excuse. I think the women have been really focused. They are more patient in their paperwork. The trend is to give more written assignments so students can develop the logical process of reasoning,? he said in a phone interview.

He believes the law profession has succeeded in erasing biases based on gender.

?The profession does not require brawn, only brains,? he said.

University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque is not surprised that women are outperforming men in the bar exams.

When he graduated from law school in 1990, their class valedictorian was Evalyn Ursua, a noted activist lawyer who scored a victory for her client ?Nicole? in her rape case against an American Marine.

Roque noted that more women had been passing the university?s stringent admissions process, so there were now more females in law school.

?At UP, they have been graduating at the top of their class for the last three years at least,? he said.

Roque also believes that female students are less distracted by extracurricular activities.

The sorority system at UP is not that strong compared to fraternities. Since fraternities tend to take time away from their members, the performance of some of the male students suffer, he said.

Ursua attributed the women?s strong performance in law school and the bar exams to their attitude and skill.

?I think many women in law school are more motivated and more hardworking, if not more intelligent and better educated, than their male counterparts,? she said.

Election lawyer Leila de Lima is glad there are more women entering the law profession.

She said female lawyers, judges and justices were less prone to commit hanky-panky. ?They are more afraid to engage in corruption and wrongdoing.?

De Lima observed there were more women who chose to go into practice and do battle in court instead of opting for government jobs.

It?s not only the law profession where women have been excelling, she said. Today, there are more women in politics.

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