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May 12, 2009


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Jacqueline Lipton

This doesn't really answer the question you posed, but I wanted to emphasize that this problem is not unique to the United States and I think it really is a problem because, by not appointing more women (and minorities) to the bench, we're losing out on more perspectives and better minds. If you draw predominantly from only half of the population, it stands to reason that you're losing some good minds from the other half.

When I left Australia in 2000, we had only ever had one female judge on the High Court (Australia's equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court) and there had never been a female judge on the Supreme Court of Victoria. This position has now been remedied, but there was much hand-wringing by a significant portion of the male element of the Victorian bar when the first women judges were appointed to the Victorian Supreme Court. This suggests to me that some benches might not ultimately be so welcoming to women, and this might dissuade some women from even thinking about a career on the bench.

Adam Benforado

Jacqueline, you bring up a good point: when considering gender diversity, it is important to realize that this is a concern that transcends international borders. You mention international judicial systems, but the same parallels exist in the business arena. For example, according to the 2009 Catalyst Census of Corporate Officers and Top Earners of the FP500, while women make up the majority of university graduates in Canada and are almost half of the labor force, they compose only 16.9 percent of the corporate officers in Canada's largest businesses (

Jacqueline Lipton

Interesting stats - I'm sure you're right that there are similar stats in other countries as well. Certainly, when I practiced in corporate law in Australia (in the early 1990s), in firms with 50-70 partners, there were typically only 2-5 women partners and probably no significant minorities. I haven't checked the stats now but I hope they're better. I don't have any specific stats about corporate boards, but I'd be interested to know if anyone has any other comparative stats out there for other countries.

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