While this month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor joining the Supreme Court, there is still a glass ceiling affecting women’s ability to rise within the legal profession. According to a New York Times Editorial, women represent a minority in profession leadership, including federal and state judgeships, and are disproportionately subjected to sexual discrimination in the workplace.
According to the piece, women consist of half of law school graduates in the US, yet make up less than one-third of all lawyers. Women currently comprise only twenty-two percent of federal judgeships and twenty-six percent of state judgeships. An ABA Commission on Women in the Profession report found evidence of bias against women in law firms, including large gaps in pay and work assignments. Women with children have an even more difficult time in the legal profession and are half as likely to be hired as childless women.
The editorial suggests a less traditional work schedule of which both men and women take advantage and a transparent evaluation and compensation system to keep women in the practice and administration of the law. The legal profession needs to retain a higher number of women, or it will lose talented lawyers and potential judges.
Justice at Stake has been actively working to increase judicial diversity. It is essential to a fair and impartial justice system that the bench reflects the population it serves. You can learn more about JAS’s work to increase judicial diversity here.