Supreme Court now a total boys club

A few days ago, a lawyer friend sent me a daily law journal article about the paucity of female Supreme Court clerks this year– 19% of the 2006 clerks are women, down from 37-41% over the five previous terms. Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Souter hired only male clerks this term.
Somebody must have sent Linda Greenhouse the same article, because she’s all over it today. (Legal Times covered this back in May, when the clerkships were announced.)
It’s really depressing that not only are there almost no women on the actual court, but the clerks (the people who actually write opinions and screen new cases) are also mostly male.

In a brief telephone interview, Justice O’Connor said she was “surprised� by the development, but declined to speculate on the cause. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed no such surprise. In a conversation the other day, she knew the numbers off the top of her head, and in fact had noted them in a speech this month in Montreal to the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, during which she also observed with obvious regret that “I have been all alone in my corner on the bench� since Justice O’Connor’s retirement in January.
Justice Ginsburg, who will have two women among her four clerks, declined during the conversation to comment further on the clerkship numbers. Why not ask a justice who has not hired any women for the coming term, she suggested.

Souter explains that this is “no more than a random variation,” which is a really annoying excuse for his lack of female hires. I suppose the fact that there’s only one female justice on the bench is also just a “random variation”?
The dearth of female clerks is certainly not for lack of women at prestigious law schools– in fact, schools are where women in law have made the most progress. American Bar Association data shows about half of recent law grads were female, and the percentage of women in tenured positions at law schools increased from 5.9%5 to 25.1% between 1994 and 2002. Women are making professional progress, too, but the numbers aren’t as dramatic when you start talking about positions of power after graduation.
It’s also worth noting, as the Legal Times article did, that there are very few minority clerks, too:

Eight years after attention was first called to the dearth of minorities among high court clerks, it appears that only three of the 37 clerks serving at the Court this term are nonwhite. [...] It appears that the current number of minorities is substantially lower than in recent years. The three minorities this term compare with five last term, eight the previous term and a record nine in 2002. …if the proof is in the pudding, the pudding, this term at least, is vanilla.

Male vanilla.
See Feminist Law Profs and the Volokh Conspiracy for more.

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  • the15th

    Love this comment at Volokh:
    Why there are almost no women physicists, chemists, mathematicians and engineers is easy. Larry Summers got it right. But why there are few women clerks is truly mysterious, since the major qualification is ability to kiss up. My female law school colleagues had no problem bedding down the professors, so why can’t they get clerkships?

  • chem_fem

    This guy is a dick. I’ll say it once and say it again, there are loads of women scientists!!! My lab is half full of them, we are totally out there and yet people are still amazed to find that there are so many.
    ggrrr, and I know I’m just preaching to the converted here anyway, thanks for listening.

  • Alon Levy

    I wish there were… at my university, about 17% of the science/math faculty is female, if I remember correctly.

  • chem_fem

    In my university (the best I could get was 2004) it is 40% for science and technology courses…..

  • chem_fem

    wait a sec just read your post properly and you said faculty not students.
    I honestly don’t know many women who want to be academics. Most of us (and I plan to) go into industry. Pay is better, way better and so are the conditions generally.

  • Qi

    Re: women and science
    Women Aren’t Good in Math . . . or Are They?
    Strange but true: Women score much lower on math tests if they are first asked unrelated questions about gender issues. The phenomenon is called “stereotype threat” — a kind of performance anxiety discovered in 1995 when psychologists found that black students at Stanford University did significantly worse on intelligence tests if they were first asked to identify their race on the test form.
    Since then, dozens of other experiments have confirmed that subtly cuing women or minorities to think subconsciously about their sex or race causes them do poorly in areas where the stereotype suggests they are weak.

    When they analyzed the data, they found that men in the control group did, indeed, perform 15 to 20 percent better than the women on the Vandenberg test, in line with previous studies. Among those who had been subtly cued to think about their gender, the gap was even wider — guys did “25 percent to 30 percent better than the women,” again consistent with previous research, McGlone said.
    The surprise came among those who were primed to think about their status as students at an exclusive private college.
    The gender gap closed dramatically, as women’s scores improved while men’s stayed the same. “There was no significant difference between men and women,” McGlone said. “With a pretty simple manipulation, we could significantly reduce this gap,” which suggests that “there might be things that make all of these biological factors go away.”

  • bloodred

    MIT, an institute undoubtedly associated with math, science and engineering, although once a male dominated community, clearly displays the development that it is not a genetic difference in men and women preventing them from entering the field but a societal oppression by accepting 49% women to the class of 2009 and 45% women to the class of 2010. This nearly 50/50 split reflects the expected distribution if there was no correlation between gender and capability in math, science, and engineering which there therefore clearly is not.

  • Valencia

    I became very sad after reading this that there are only a few number of women in Supreme Court. It’s not fair with the women. Women must have their place in every field of today’s world. I do want to write more but I have to prepare myself for 642-446 exam going to be held tomorrow. I would come back again to discuss it in detail. Thanks for posting on such a nice topic.

  • sunzheng
  • Briace