Rome, I hear, was not built in a day. Neither is a diverse federal judiciary. When Justice Ginsburg graduated from law school (1959), there were two female federal judges. When Justice Sotomayor graduated from law school (1979), that number had increased to 35. In 1988, the year I graduated from high school, women made up about 7% of federal judges. Over the past three decades, an increasing number of women have joined the legal profession. In recent years, law schools have seen the number of female students increase, so that they now make up nearly half of all law students. Today, women make up roughly 30% of the federal bench and for the first time in history, that holds true in trial courts, courts of appeal, and the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.
The increased number of women on the federal bench is a fact worthy of celebration, because when women are fairly represented, our federal courts are more reflective of the diverse population of this nation. In addition, when women are fairly represented on the federal bench, women as well as men may have more confidence that the court understands the real-world implications of its rulings. For both, the increased presence of women on the bench improves the quality of justice: women judges can bring an understanding of the impact of the law on the lives of women and girls to the bench, and enrich courts’ understanding of how best to realize the intended purpose and effect of the law that the courts are charged with applying.
But while we cheer this progress, it’s nowhere near time to sit back and think that our work is done.