Federalists v. women?

While not reading for class tomorrow I came across this post at Feminist Law Professors, pointing out the lack of women in the Federalist Society’s 2007 Student Symposium. My count confirms that out of 19 panelists, 16 are men and 3 are women; of 6 moderators, 5 are men. Needless to say, the keynote speaker is a man. As my original source pointedly points out, the Federalists’ counterpoint, the American Constitutional Society, had much better numbers at their 2006 symposium. (I’ll admit I didn’t count, because there were many more speakers, but informally looking at the brochure reveals at least one woman on each panel). Surprised? Not so much. My question, however, is why there is this disparity between the two organizations. Actually, not really. My real question is: do Federalists have a thing against women? Or do women have a thing against the Federalists? Aside from Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly, who will be speaking at the Student Symposium (and who is more of a prominent conservative Republican than Federalist), I must confess that very few female Federalists come to mind when I think of the organization. I’m not saying that female Federalists don’t exist, since there are several in the Society’s staff roster (women are 5 out of 12 of its directors, and 6 out of 8 of its assistant directors) (but NO women are on its Board of Directors), but I wonder where their luminaries are—where are those big names who speak at their big events? One explanation is that there are just simply fewer prominent female conservatives out there. Fair enough, but this whole we-love-women, but-there-are-not-any-who-fit-our-needs reasoning is starting to ring hollow. Particularly since women are about 50% of most law school classes these days, and certainly make up the same percentage at the collegiate level. I should also say that I’m a little sick of hearing this explanation, which I’ve also gotten as to why there are fewer women than men clerking on the Supreme Court (and the all-important feeder courts), and also in the context of professor-hiring at law schools. Sometimes it’s called a “pipeline problem”—the problem is the supply, not the demand (or the criteria the demand is applying, consciously or unconsciously). Another way to consider this lack of women is that it is just a coincidence that makes this year (like last year’s single-digit female SCOTUS clerks) just a fluke. Blah again. My complaints are essentially the same: this is blaming the applicants for not fitting your requirements. As in: I just picked the best. Who happen to mostly be men. (And, let’s be honest: white). Based on the (perhaps huge) assumption that Federalists have fewer women in their network, what is the upshot? Fewer female clerks (because, as we all know, the liberals have no game when it comes to things like clerk-placement when compared to the Federalists)? Or is this just further proof that many women, particularly highly educated ones (like, ahem, lawyers), trend towards the liberal side of the spectrum, so it’s not really worth the Federalists’ time seeking them out?



I take offense at the argument that particularly highly educated women trend towards the liberal side.  To me, this is the tired argument.  To me this is a stereotype that only serves to keep women away from pursuing tough jobs and prestigious institutions because of some sort of idea that they won’t fit in or won’t have a support network. I’m conservative and republican and female but I haven’t taken the time to join the Federalist Society.  Maybe I should so that I can “represent” or so that others don’t make sweeping generalizations about the group.  Maybe I should just so that people can have an easier time locating a successful conservative woman. Maybe I should so that I can get inside information about gender discrimination.  Hmmmm…. Instead, I have taken the time to attend and rise to the head of the class at TOP institutions for law school, business school, and undergrad.  I have taken the time to focus on my family and career.


I don’t know why the Federalist Society seems to have failed to attract the conservative women to their ranks, but one possible explanation has to be that they don’t have a large pool to attract.
It’s not so much an argument that the highly educated tend to hold progressive political views; it’s a statistic.  The Georgetown Law Journal documented campaign contributions amongst law professors.  Nationwide more than 80% gave to democrats.  In the most prestigious universities, 90% of law professors donated to democrats.  Other fields are less drastic, but the trend is still clear: academics tend to be liberal.  It’s not a coincidence that the trial lawyer’s association is a major democratic supporter, or that the most liberal voting district in the nation is the one with the highest concentration of lawyers (namely, Washington, D.C.). 
See the NYT article for more:


Thanks for taking the time to respond to this post. I guess I don’t understand what the status “conservative woman” means. Sometimes, I think I know what it may mean, and sometimes, I think it means that you have religious or cultural values that do not jive with issues of abortion rights or other things such as that. However, it seems like an oxymoron to me. Can you please tell me what makes you a conservative? Is it cultural? Religious? Do you simply believe in capitalism and a free-market society and low taxes and a strong military, with very few social programs for the poor? Or is it that you think women are not equal to men, should not get equal pay for equal work and should always stay home when they have chidlren and that it is ok that men have the dominant/lion’s share of power, money and control in our profession and in the majority of societies in the world? You see, at one time, I was very conservative, but in a fringe sort of way. I did not believe in abortion, thought women did not need the IRA b/c women were included, even if not named, in the rights written into the constitution. It took a hard life of poverty and abuse in my life to see the reality to that situation.But I was also a peace activist and believed in liberation theology.  All of those years of a hard life became an epiphany to me that not everyone can make it if they just work hard enough. Not eveyone has access to pathways of success. Some of us have to fight for it.
So you see, I walked this path, from conservative, fundamanetalist Christian, to progressive, free-thinker who is also a lesbian. So, if you please, tell us what part of being conservative are you? Because the progressive, the liberal feminists and men have paved the way for your successful-ness as a conservative woman. If not for that movement, you would be married, at home with children, submissive to you husband and not have the right to vote, much less be a lawyer, and even if you did, by chance, become a lawyer, you would never make as much money as a man. Please tell me, because I do not understand.
Elizabeth Alexander, J.D. ~Most men lead lives of quiet desperation~ Henry David Thoreau


I take issue with the fact that a sample of law school professors is equal to the “highly educated”.  I would not argue with the fact that academics tend to be liberal, and I admit that is a fact.  I would argue with the notion that academics=the highly educated.  Clearly that is not a valid equation.


The comment here about conservative women is very accusatory.  Believe me that I am not living an anamoly.  I do not ever have to worry about contradictions in between my politics and gender as I think the two are absolutely in harmony.  I don’t think should others should spend their time doing so either. Foremost, I believe in individual responsibility. I believe in capitalism and the free market.  I believe in hard work and not in handouts.  I believe in the American dream.  I believe in the rule of law.  I believe in God but don’t really care if others do.  I believe in individual freedoms when they don’t act to the detriment of a free society.  I believe in smaller federal government and states’ rights to govern their people in a uniquely state way.  I believe in a strong national defense and forceful foreign policy.  I believe in parental rights to make decisions for their own children, including educational ones.  It doesn’t take a village to raise my kids, it takes a family.  I believe that this country was founded on ideals of freedom and liberty and the pursuit of happiness—very individual ideas. I am libertarian when it comes to social issues in the sense that I believe that the government should get out of my personal life.  I actually think that this attitude is more in keeping with generally conservative ideals.
You (or other progresives) haven’t paved my way anywhere.  I’ve kicked down plenty of my own doors along my journey to “success-ness”.  I come from a working class family where I was taught that hardwork and education are how you get ahead in this world.  At a young age (15) I started turning down government assistance for things like hot lunch and worked (and worked and worked) to pay for things myself.  I dedicated myself to public service for 11 years before getting to the point where I could take the time for law school.  I’m not a victim.


Thank you for you thoughtful comments. I am sorry you felt my tone was accusatory, I just wanted to know what it is you felt conservative about. I actually agree with 85-90% of your personal assertions and values, and I am not conservative. I do think we work better in community, however, which is where my faith values differ from yours. Jesus never preached individualism as a christian value, by the way. I also differ with you on your comment that no one paved your way. They have. The suffragists who fought for the vote, who fought for worker’s rights, for women’s property rights for you paved your way. They gave you a relatively equal “starting point” so that you COULD work your way through the difficulties you encountered and bravely overcame. Thank god you were healthy, did not lose your family members or had mental health issues which made you more vulnerable. You should be proud, and you seem to be, about your accomplishments. Just remember that no one, especially women, are brought up in a vaccum. There are many pillars that have supported the structure that has made you a success, from family, to government to social policy. If you are white, then white privilege has given you entree into much of the word free of encumbrances. Celebrate your success, but know that many have worked very hard to allow you the opportunity to work hard to succeed. My father had a 9th grade education and was farmer, and I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. Not only did I finish undergraduate, but I now have 3 undergraduate degrees, and received an award for high academic achievement in the face of personal adversity. I worked hard for it. But I was also given the chance, by a program, that allowed me opportunity I might not have had otherwise. Your values are to be applauded, and I have a suspicion that you would not leave someone to bleed to death outside your door should you encounter them. We affect one another…we have the power to help, to hurt, to make a difference. Best to you…
Elizabeth Alexander, J.D. ~Most men lead lives of quiet desperation~ Henry David Thoreau


It seems that conservatives are tired of being tagged for their affiliations with the Federalist Society as if it is something to be ashamed of.  See here. Makes me think that this anti-FS spin that was started by the Senate confirmation process and fueled by the left leaning media is keeping women away from the group in greater numbers than men.  Perhaps women are more leery of adding additional labels to themselves and giving the ‘haters’ more ammunition.  Still, perhaps its just not worth it. Update: I forgot to give a shout out to my source— Prof. B.

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