Distinguished Professor of Law and UC Hatings Foundation Chair and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law


Described as having “something approaching rock star status” in her field by The New York Times Magazine, Joan C. Williams has played a central role in reshaping the conversation about work, gender, and class over the past quarter century. Williams is a Distinguished Professor of Law, Hastings Foundation Chair, and Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Williams’ path-breaking work helped create the field of work-family studies and modern workplace flexibility policies.

Williams’ 2014 book What Works for Women at Work (co-written with daughter Rachel Dempsey) was praised by The New York Times Book Review: “Deftly combining sociological research with a more casual narrative style, What Works for Women at Work offers unabashedly straightforward advice in a how-to primer for ambitious women.” Following its success, Sheryl Sandberg and asked Joan to create short videos sharing the strategies discussed in the book. The videos have been downloaded over 975,000 times and are featured by Virgin Airlines as in-flight entertainment, seen literally around the world. Most recently, Williams co-authored a workbook companion to What Works for Women at Work, available now from NYU Press.

Williams founded Gender Bias Bingo, a web-based project aimed at providing information and tools on gender bias to professors. Williams has explored the parallels and differences between gender and racial bias in two reports. The first, “Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women in Science” has been shared over 40,000 times in the media, and the second, “Climate Control? Gender and Racial Bias in Engineering” was co-authored by the Society for Women Engineers and surveyed over 3,000 engineers.

Williams is one of the 10 most cited scholars in her field. She has authored 11 books, over 90 academic articles, and her work has been covered in publications from Oprah Magazine to The Atlantic. Her awards include the Families and Work Institute’s Work Life Legacy Award (2014), the American Bar Foundation’s Outstanding Scholar Award (2012), and the ABA’s Margaret Brent Women Award for Lawyers of Achievement (2006). In 2008, she gave the Massey Lectures in the History of American Civilization at Harvard. Her Harvard Business Review article, “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class” has been read over 3.7 million times and is now the most read article in HBR’s 90-plus year history.



  1. Harvard Law School

    J.D., Law

  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    M.A., City Planning

  3. Yale University

    B.A., History


  1. Work Life Legacy Award 2014

    Awarded by the Families and Work Institute.

  2. Hastings Visionary Award 2013

    Awarded by The University of California at Hastings.

  3. Outstanding Scholar Award 2012

    Awarded by the American Bar Foundation.

Selected Scholarship

  1. Disruptive Innovation: New Models of Legal Practice 04/2015

    UC Hastings

  2. The End of Men?: Gender Flux in the Face of Precarious Masculinity 01/2013

    Boston University Law Review

  3. Discrimination Against Mothers is the Strongest Form of Workplace Gender DiscriminationL Lessons from U.S. Caregiver Discrimination Law 01/2012

    International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations

  4. The Evolution of 'FReD': Family Responsibilities Discrimination and Developments in the Law of Stereotyping and Implicit Bias 01/2008

    Hastings Law Journal

  5. Caregivers in the Courtroom: The Growing Trend of Family Responsibilities Discrimination 01/2006

    University of San Francisco Law Review


  1. Gender and the Law
  2. Leadership Skills for Lawyers
  3. Advanced Employment Law