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?