Ann Olivarius
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Ann Olivarius
Ann Marie Olivarius
Born (1955-02-19) 19 February 1955 (age 63)
Brooklyn, New York, US
ResidenceLondon, England
EducationYale College (BA Political Science 1977), summa cum laude

Yale Law School (JD 1986)

Yale School of Management (MBA 1986) Somerville College, Oxford University (D.Phil. Economics 1992) (Rhodes Scholar)
OccupationChair of the Executive Committee, McAllister Olivarius
Years active1986-present
Jef McAllister (married 1981)
Children2 daughters, 1 son

Ann Olivarius (born 19 February 1955) is an American-British lawyer who specializes in cases of civil litigation, sexual harassment, and sexual discrimination. She is the Chair of the Executive Committee at the international law firm McAllister Olivarius, which she established in 1996, and the founder and chair of the non-profit research centre the Rhodes Project. She is also a well-known campaigner against non-consensual pornography ("revenge pornography").

Early life and education

Olivarius was one of five daughters born to Kenneth and Ann (Beckley) Olivarius in Brooklyn, New York. She attended public school in Park Ridge, New Jersey and in 1972, at the age of 17, won an American Field Service scholarship to study in Peru.[1]

The following year, Olivarius enrolled in Yale College. During her junior year she worked for the Administrative Assistant/Counsel[2] to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Warren E. Burger.[3] In 1977, Olivarius organized and became a plaintiff in the seminal case Alexander v. Yale, which for the first time found that universities have a legal duty to protect against sexual harassment and violence. She graduated summa cum laude in Political Science and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

In 1978, Olivarius was selected as one of 32 American students for a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University.[4] This was only the second year the Rhodes Scholarships were open to women,[5] who received only one-quarter of the available scholarships that year. At Oxford, Olivarius pursued a DPhil in Economics at Somerville College.[6][7] Her thesis, entitled Working Democracy: Analysis and prospects of British worker co-operatives,[8] was awarded the Nuffield Prize for an outstanding doctorate in Economics. At Oxford, Olivarius worked for the international law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, where she was instrumental in drafting the early arbitration rules that helped ensure that London became one of the main centres for international dispute resolution, and served as a Governor of Manchester College (now Harris Manchester College).

Olivarius's doctorate examined several worker-owned firms (cooperatives) in Britain to see if democracy could be both an appealing method of organizing businesses for their workers and profitable. It concluded that cooperatives were not intrinsically flawed (they failed at the same rate as traditionally organised small businesses). But cooperatives placed an unusual range of demands on their members which, in a climate not yet geared to training workers in democratic organisation, made it likely that profitable cooperative firms would remain a small portion of the UK economy.

In 1983, Olivarius returned to Yale to complete a joint graduate degree program[9] at Yale Law School and Yale School of Management, normally a five-year course, in three years, receiving highest honors for her combined combined JD (Juris Doctor) and MBA degrees in 1986. While there, she brought a case against a debt collection agency that used abusive collection tactics to collect monies not actually owed. She was pivotal in getting the firm to apologize and change their procedures.[10]

Alexander v. Yale

In March 1977, in light of the upcoming ten-year anniversary of the admission of women to Yale College, the Yale Corporation asked Olivarius as a campus leader to chair the preparation of a Report on the Status of Women at Yale.[11] The report included testimonies from approximately 30 students and faculty describing various aspects of women's life on campus, some humorous, some deeply serious, including some persistent problems. It ended with a discussion of unwanted sexual advances by professors, ranging from sexual harassment (a term not yet widely used) to rape. The scale of complaints on this subject that emerged as Olivarius oversaw the report to the corporation was surprisingly large. She followed up by presenting detailed accounts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape by several professors, including music teacher Keith Brion, to university officials, seeking a central clearing house where complaints of this sort could be lodged and dealt with, rather than treated as a private problem for the female student to handle herself. However, the university took no action.[12] A typical instance at the time was the reporting to college authorities that Calvin Hirsch, a student who is now a physician affiliated with the University of California at Davis Medical Center, had raped another student. No action was taken, and the police called it a "private problem" for which they had neither the skills nor the role to address.[13]

Ultimately Olivarius joined with four other students and one faculty member in bringing suit against Yale - the case of Alexander v. Yale.[14] The plaintiffs asserted that, in failing to adopt proper procedures to deal with sexual harassment complaints, the university had discriminated against women on the basis of gender. While the case was dismissed by the court on other grounds,[15] it confirmed, for the first time, that allowing an environment in which sexual harassment could persist constituted sex discrimination.[16]

In 1992, the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund gave Olivarius its Maria Miller Stewart Legal Challenge Award for her work in Alexander v. Yale. In April 2012, Olivarius was honored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in its list of the nine most influential actors in the history of Title IX.[17] In 2012 she gave the keynote address at Yale Law School, for Sex Week at Yale, which discussed Alexander v. Yale and put the case in a broader context of women's empowerment and advancement.[18]


Olivarius worked as Vice President - Strategy at Computer Memories Inc. and in the Mergers & Acquisitions departments of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. She served as a legal and financial advisor to Perot Systems, when she devised software licensing contracts that became widely adopted throughout the industry, and then became the head the corporate practice of Shearman & Sterling in Washington D.C.

At McAllister Olivarius, she has she has represented victims of sexual harassment against major banks, hedge funds, companies, law firms, and universities in the US and UK. Publicly reported cases include the wrongful suspension of Professor Wendy Purcell, formerly vice-chancellor of Plymouth University;[19] representing Nefertiti Takla and Kristen Glasgow against UCLA concerning the actions of Professor Gabriel Piterberg of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) concerning the actions of Professor Gabriel Piterberg;[20] Catherine Mayer against Time magazine;[21] Monica Morrison against the University of Miami;[22] and a group of professors and students at the University of Rochester for a hostile work environment and retaliation concerning the behavior of Professor Florian Jaeger.[23] Two of the plaintiffs in the University of Rochester case, Celeste Kidd and Jessica Cantlon, were named "Persons of the Year" by Time magazine in its cover story "Silence Breakers" in 2017.[24] In 2017, the British academic journal Nature named Olivarius as one of "Nature's 10" people who mattered in science because of her work fighting sexual harassment at universities.[25]

Olivarius and her law firm have also represented victims of non-consensual pornography and other internet-based privacy violations, including YouTube personality Chrissy Chambers in a precedent-setting revenge porn case against her former partner.[26] For her work on this issue, Olivarius was invited in 2017 to deliver a talk at a TEDx conference, "Revenge Porn: The Naked Truth."[27]

In January 2011, Olivarius joined with US lawyer Jeff Anderson in creating a trans-Atlantic litigation practice, AO Advocates,[28] which focuses on representing survivors of historic childhood sexual abuse in the UK. In 2012 she delivered a keynote speech on this topic to a meeting of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers in London, the leading UK practitioners in this area.[29] AO Advocates now has over 60 cases representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In 2015, the British High Court ruled in a case brought by AO Advocates that the liability of the Jehovah's Witnesses extended to sexual assault committed by low-level officials known as "ministerial servants," an important ruling for survivors of institutional abuse generally.[30] AO Advocates is also handling a group of cases relating to abuse at the former Shirley Oaks children's home in London, where hundreds of children were subjected to sexual, mental, and physical abuse over a 30-year period by doctors, teachers, priests, sports coaches, and other authority figures.[31]

Since 2011, McAllister Olivarius has received annual accreditation from the Law Society of England and Wales' Lexcel programme in recognition of the high quality of its management.[32] The Lexcel assessor ranked the firm's practice management in the top 2.5% of all British law firms.[33]

In July 2017, McAllister Olivarius made the news for its work in a case dealing with adoption discrimination. A British-born Sikh couple were advised by their local adoption agency not to apply because the only children available were white, meaning they would be refused.[34][35] Because of its broader importance, the case is being funded by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission.[36]

Other professional activities

While an undergraduate at Yale in the early 1970s, Olivarius coined the phrase "date rape" and publicized it through a series of talks at the college, where the new term "sexual harassment" was also being seriously explored.[37]

Olivarius advised Nelson Mandela about gender-based inequalities, including child marriage, female genital mutilation, human trafficking, and high rates of female illiteracy. She encouraged him to understand rape as a form of war crime, an idea that has gained traction among legal scholars and war crimes tribunals. For this work, she was introduced by Mandela to a dinner gathering of dignitaries and Rhodes Scholars in Cape Town in February 2003 as "a lawyer who has advised me well and who has courageously advanced the cause of justice, and improved life opportunities, for hundreds of millions of women, blacks and disadvantaged worldwide."[] She also advised him as he was considering creation of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders who work to advance peace and human rights.

In 2004, Olivarius founded the Rhodes Project, a research institute devoted to developing one of the largest-ever comprehensive studies of high-achieving women and how gender shapes successful women's professional careers, life choices, and struggles with the gender gap. The project has collected, through multiple surveys and hundreds of hours of interviews, extensive data on the more than one thousand women who have received a Rhodes Scholarship since 1977, when women first became eligible. Preliminary results of the study have been presented at Rhodes House at Oxford University[38] and at a research colloquium at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University.[39]

Olivarius served on the boards of openDemocracy, a global internet-based hub for the exchange of ideas, and Autistica, which funds scientific research into autism. She is a member and former board member of Women Moving Millions, an organization of women that have pledged $1 million or more help women and girls.[40] In 2016, she spoke on "gender lens" investing and philanthropy at an international conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, on "100 Years of Women's Civil Rights."[41] She is a founding member of the Women's Equality Party in the UK.

In 2017, Olivarius was invited to be a Donaldson Fellow[42] at the Yale School of Management, a program honouring alumni who share a commitment to pursuing positive change in the world.[43]

Olivarius has presented her research and work at the University of East London,[44] Oxford Human Rights Hub,[45] and The Cambridge Union.[46] She published an article on the judicial philosophy of Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black,[47] and more recently a scholarly overview of sexual assault and Title IX in the academy.[48] She has contributed op-eds to publications including the Financial Times,[49]Huffington Post,[50] and The Telegraph.[51]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Dr. Mark W. Cannon
  3. ^ J.F. McAllister 3d weds Ann Olivarius, The New York Times, September 6, 1981,
  4. ^ "32 Students Are Selected for Rhodes Scholarships, The New York Times, December 19, 1977.
  5. ^ Thomas J. Schaeper and Kathleen Schaeper, 1998, Cowboys Into Gentlemen: Rhodes Scholars, Oxford, and the Creation of an American Elite, Berghahn; Anthony Kenny, ed., 2001, The History of the Rhodes Trust 1902-1999, Oxford University Press; Philip Ziegler, 2008, Legacy: Cecil Rhodes, The Rhodes Trust and Rhodes Scholarships, Yale University Press
  6. ^ "Somervillian becomes the first female Rhodes Scholar to have portrait displayed at Rhodes House". Somerville College, Oxford. 14 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Profile with Ann Olivarius". 2013. Retrieved 2018.
  8. ^ Working Democracy: Analysis and prospects of British worker co-operatives
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Olivarius v. Van Ru Credit Corporation, US District Court, D. Conn., 1986. US District Court. 1986.
  11. ^
  12. ^; Marie P. Grady, "History Revisited," Connecticut Law Tribune, April 11, 2011, quoted in
  13. ^ Olivarius, Ann. "Sexual Harassment and Assault in the Academy." Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 53, no. 1 (2017) : 11-36.
  14. ^ Alexander v. Yale University, 459 F. Supp. 1 - Dist. Court, D. Connecticut 1977; 631 F. 2d 178 - Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 1980.
  15. ^ Kuersten, Ashlyn K (2003). Women and the Law. ABC-CLIO.
  16. ^ Paludi, Michele Antoinette, 1990, Ivory power: Sexual harassment on campus, SUNY Press.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ John Morgan, [2], Times Higher Education, 16 October 2014
  20. ^ Nefertiti Takla and Kristen Hillaire Glasgow, Plaintiffs, vs. The Regents of the University of California, Case No. 2:15-cv-4418, US District Court, Central District of California, Western Division;
  21. ^;
  22. ^;
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^;
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Video on YouTube;
  30. ^ A v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Trustees of) & Ors [2015] EWHC 1722 (QB);;
  31. ^;
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ "'Race never entered our minds': The heartbroken couple told they can't adopt a white baby". The Telegraph. Retrieved .
  35. ^ Rawlinson, Kevin (2017-06-26). "British Sikh couple take legal action after being advised not to adopt". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved .
  36. ^
  37. ^ Catherine A. McKinnon, Sexual Harassment of Working Women, Yale University Press (1979). The preface, pages xi-xiv, discusses the origins of the work at Yale in 1974-75.
  38. ^
  39. ^ and
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ Donaldson Fellow
  43. ^
  44. ^ and
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^ Olivarius, Ann. "Absolutely Black: A Judicial Philosophy," Beverly Hills Bar Association Journal, volume 11, 1977, pages 11-24.
  48. ^ Olivarius, Ann. "Sexual Harassment and Assault in the Academy." Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 53, no. 1 (2017) : 11-36. Available at:
  49. ^ Ann Olivarius, "Cecil Rhodes' statue will gaze down at another kind of scholar: Global scholarships open to everyone are a century in the making," Financial Times, 12 February 2018,
  50. ^ Olivarius, Dr Ann, "Peaceful Revolution: Rhodes Scholar Mothers Face Inequality Too," Huffington Post, 2 April 2010,
  51. ^ Olivarius, Dr. Ann, "Revenge porn is not part of 'everyday life': Something has gone terribly wrong with our teens," The Telegraph, 7 December 2015,

Other sources

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