8.30.2006

It's a story again--where are all the female law clerks?

Here we are again (h/t Feministe). The NY Times has an article on the low number of female Supreme Court law clerks this year. From the article:
Just under 50 percent of new law school graduates in 2005 were women. Yet women account for only 7 of the 37 law clerkships for the new term, the first time the number has been in the single digits since 1994, when there were 4,000 fewer women among the country’s new law school graduates than there are today.
This was discussed ad nauseam over at the Volokh Conpsiracy, among other blogs, in July by what appeared to be mostly men with a conservative bent. And, they purported to discuss the issue in such a clinical and oh-so-logical manner.

A number of commenters seemed quite set upon the idea that all of the potential female clerks wanted to opt out and have kids. Nice idea in theory, but actually pretty lame considering that most clerks are just one year out of law school, making most of them about 27 or so, and the clerkship is only one year long. Speaking as a woman with a law degree who chose to utilize my uterus, I can assure you that waiting until I was in my early 30s to use it was a-ok with me. I was more than happy to gain some experience before I cannonballed my career. I bet the rejected pool of female applicants would agree with me.

I liked Jill's take on this at Feminste:
There’s no way that the traditional boys’ network influenced this one, either — I mean, it’s not as if how much you like a person, or how much you feel you have in common with a person, impacts your hiring decisions, right? And it’s not as if how much you like someone is at all influenced by your social outings, or your potential social outings, with them, many of which — like, say, golf — are highly gendered, right? I mean, no one has ever demonstrated that having more people from underrepresented groups — women, people of color — in positions of power leads to more people from those underrepresented groups finding success in those very fields, have they?
The good ol' boy issue is one of the biggest issues facing women in the legal field, in my opinion. It's a seemingly insurmountable and unquantifiable force that makes it 10 times harder to rise through the ranks in the law firm environment where you are judged, in large part, by the business that you bring in, which is in turn based upon who you know.

And, it's an important phenomenon, and certainly helps to explain the low number of women this year in the halls of the most hallowed court in the land. I hope that this year's low numbers are just a random blip on the radar, as suggested in the NY Times article.

But, I tend to be a pessimist. Tune in next year and I predict we'll see the beginning of a sad and telling trend. One that I'm not at all happy about.

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