Women Judges, Women’s Presence: How the Inclusion of Women Changes Things
A couple of days ago, I heard a fascinating story on NPR called, “How Women Changed the High Court…And Didn’t,” sparked by Elena Kagan’s nomination to be the next Supreme Court Justice.
There were a number of salient points, all worthy of discussion. For example, some have bemoaned the fact that Sotomayor and Kagan are unmarried and childless. But the story makes the point that power may be the ultimate aphrodisiac when men yield it, but when a woman is the solicitor general of the U.S., not too many men may be standing in line waiting to ask the woman out. (I’m a sucker for discussions about power dynamics between men and women.)
But the point I wanted to focus on was this: the reporter addresses the question of whether female judges judge differently than male judges. A study of more than 7000 decisions shows that men and women do not judge differently – except in one area: sex discrimination. Women judges are 10% more likely to rule in favor of the plaintiff.
Likewise, in three judge panels which contain at least one women, the men were 15% more likely to rule in favor of the sex discrimination plaintiff than on three judge panels which contain only men.
That last statistic was the most startling to me. A woman judge’s mere presence – just her presence – influences the male judges decisions in this area.
I couldn’t help but think about this in a Mormon administrative context. Would having one woman in the room during Church courts affect the ultimate decisions, at least in some situations? And by extension, would having one woman in the room during bishopric meetings sometimes affect decisions made about callings, talks, ward projects and goals, etc.?
I suspect it would. Which once again gives me that sinking feeling I’m accustomed to feel whenever I think of those ubiquitous all male meetings which are so prevalent throughout all administrative levels of the church.