Escobar-Lemmon, Maria C., Valerie Hoekstra, Alice J. Kang, Miki Caul Kittilson. 2021. “Breaking the Judicial Glass Ceiling: The Appointment of Women to High Courts Worldwide.” Journal of Politics. Download Replication Data.

The appointment of the first woman to a country’s high court is important in terms of women’s ability to serve as judges, but also for the country’s judiciary. In some cases, this glass ceiling was broken as early as the 1940s, but in others this did not occur until after 2010. Based on data we collected on 159 high courts in 124 countries we find the first woman was more likely to be appointed if other countries in the region had done so, the more connections to women’s international non-governmental organizations, and the more women had completed tertiary education relative to men. In wealthy democracies having judges picked by individuals who are electorally accountable makes it more likely the initial woman is selected; in other countries institutional change and the creation of new courts made it more likely the first woman was appointed.

Kang, Alice J., Miki Caul Kittilson, Valerie Hoekstra, and Maria C. Escobar-Lemmon. 2020. “Diverse and Inclusive High Courts: A Global and Intersectional Perspective.” Politics, Groups, & Identities 8 (4): 812-21.

How can we think about representation in the judiciary when there are multiple and overlapping processes of marginalization? A comparative perspective on existing practices of representation on high courts reveals that most appointment systems treat groups as if they are internally homogenous. We argue that judiciaries cannot be fully inclusive if their composition does not reflect a society’s intersecting sources of disadvantage. Our article then explores efforts to promote intersectional inclusion in the context of the highest courts of Canada and South Africa. In Canada, the appointment of the first indigenous judge to the Supreme Court was eclipsed by concerns over finding “the best” (white) judge from a specific geographic region. While South Africa is further along than Canada in promoting intersectional diversity on the highest courts, the inclusion of Black women justices was not automatic. 

As women are increasingly nominated and appointed to high courts around the world, it is important to examine how nominations are covered by the news media. In this article, we analyze media coverage of high court justices in five democracies: Argentina, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the United States. The results show some evidence of gendered coverage, especially with regard to the attention paid to the gender of the women appointees.  

Book Chapters

Escobar-Lemmon, Maria C., Valerie Hoekstra, Alice J. Kang, and Miki Caul Kittilson. 2019. “Appointing Women to High Courts.” In Research Handbook on Law and Courts, edited by Susan Sterett and Lee Demetrius Walker. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 200-212. 

Hoekstra, Valerie, Miki Caul Kittilson, and Elizabeth Andrews Bond. 2014. “Gender, High Courts, and Ideas about Representation in Western Europe.” In Representation: The Case of Women, edited by Maria C. Escobar-Lemmon and Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.