Breaking the glass ceiling: Kang tracking female judicial appointments around the globe | Nebraska Today

For the past seven years, political scientist Alice Kang has followed when and how women broke through the glass ceiling to be appointed to the highest courts in democratic countries.

Kang, Associate Professor of Political Science and Social Anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has teamed up with researchers from Texas AT THE. University and Arizona State University to research and develop a database of judicial appointments of women to the courts US Supreme Court in both developing and stable democracies. The scholars also examined the political factors that preceded the initial appointments of these female judges.

In a recent study of 159 supreme courts in 124 countries over four decades – from 1970 to 2013 – Kang and her co-authors found that women were frequently appointed to supreme courts when the country was influenced by changing norms in surrounding countries .

“You can see changes in really powerful bodies when they happen in other places,” Kang said. “If you see it in other places, these ideas can spread internationally. Not just in terms of guidelines, but also in terms of who rules. If your neighbor to the south or north has women in her Supreme Court, it seems more possible to have women, even if centuries or decades ago all men were appointed. “

The research also found that the percentage of women who receive training and work in areas that traditionally serve as stepping stones to the appointment of judicial officers is a predictor of a country appointing its first female judge to a Supreme Court.

Kang’s study is one of the first to look at appointments by women with an international scope.

“Most scholarships for female judges focus on countries in the global north. We have a really rich literature on the United States and there are more and more studies on Germany and France, ”said Kang. “One thing that scientists in the Global North are focusing on is whether the person electing the judge is an elected or appointed civil servant because an elected civil servant may feel more pressure to appoint a woman.

“In the global south this is less important and other factors are more important. For example, we find that if you create a court from scratch, at least one woman is likely to be appointed to that court. “

Prior to this research, there was no comprehensive international database of when and why women were raised to high courts. A grant from the National Science Foundation made the work possible. The scientists gathered information from a variety of sources – government websites, correspondence with ministry and court officials, newspapers, and secondary sources.

“My colleagues and I all have backgrounds in studying women in politics, but not much historical or comparative work has been done on female judges,” Kang said. “When we looked at this, we saw a huge gap in terms of comparative information and wanted to put together a global dataset.

“We spoke to the International Association of Women Judges, based in Washington, DC, which is an international network of women in high courts and judges around the world. You don’t have this information because it’s really difficult to collect and nobody put it together. That became our mission to compile this global dataset and the history of women in court. “

The information is important, said Kang, in order to monitor human rights issues and especially women’s rights internationally.

The grant will make the full database developed by the researchers available on a website, and the co-authors will study the data more fully for an upcoming book.

“Our grant requires that our data be published and easily accessible so that we can have a website to work on,” said Kang. “We are in the process of building that and hope to have it this summer. When the book comes out, ideally the website is there so that interested students and scholars can review the data and find new questions. “

The article was published in the Journal of Politics and co-authored by Maria C. Escobar-Lemmon of Texas AT THE. and Valerie Hoekstra and Miki Caul Kittilson of Arizona State University.

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