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Women and Empathy: Is there a Difference?

by Jan Frankel Schau
June 2009

From Jan Schau's blog.

Jan Frankel Schau

I was struck by President Obama's appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court Justice this morning. In choosing her, he affirmed that he was looking for a woman as well as a person who held a "different sense of justice", by which I understood that he was seeking out someone who would listen to the legal issues of the day with a certain empathy that may be harder to attain in a man. I had dinner with a friend from law school over the weekend, who has been a Superior Court Judge for 12 years. She readily admitted that she believes women bring a heightened sense of empathy to negotiation, and when acting as a mediator. I personally attributed my empathetic leanings to being a mother. Isn't that part of the job description? And yet, Judge Sotomayor is apparently single and without children. So is there a true genetic difference? I have recently taken an advanced training by Dana Curtis (also a woman, and I don't know if she's a mom) on empathy. It was based upon very specific steps which will open both the listener and disputant to a sense of empathy at every level of the negotiation (including the money side after insulting offers and demands were exchanged). As usual, I don't have the answers to these questions, but I'm undertaking an updating of my old "gender and negotiations" talk to study the specific question of "Learning Empathy: Can Men Learn to Listen Like Women and Women Learn to Speak like Men?" Do they/we want to?

Biography


Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the needs of their representatives with the risk and expenses of trial. Those who have used Ms. Schau’s services recognize excellence in her persistence, optimism, creativity and integrity.

Ms. Schau was the President of the Southern California Mediation Association in 2007 and is recognized as among the most outstanding mediators in Southern California in the mediation of civil disputes by her peers and clients. She also serves as a Trustee of the Board of Directors of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and has presided as Chair of it’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Section and Litigation Section. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Skills in Negotiation from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution of Pepperdine University as well as from the Western Law Center for Disability Rights at Loyola Law School.



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Website: www.schaumediation.com

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