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The Federalist Society and All-Male Panels:

Recent criticism of the Federalist Society for hosting some all-male panels and conferences is, as Eugene explains, seriously misguided. As Eugene implies, the main goal for a conference or panel (in addition to quality) should be ideological and viewpoint diversity. Gender, like race and religion, sometimes correlates with ideological orientation and can serve as a crude proxy for it. However, in the case of academic panels and conferences, there is no need to use such a proxy because the views of potential participants can be much more accurately inferred from their previous writings and public statements. For example, I was invited to be on one of the panels at the Bork conference criticized by Eric Muller and Mary Dudziak because, as a libertarian, I strongly disagree with Judge Bork's proposals for government regulation of culture, which were the subject of the panel. The organizers could have relied on the crude proxy that most Russian Jewish immigrants and most atheists are more socially liberal than Bork is. However, they rightly relied instead on my publicly expressed views on the subject, which are a much more accurate indication of my position than my ethnicity, gender, or religious orientation.

A second problem is that it is dangerous to infer an organization's general policies from the composition of one or two individual panels. For example, Professor Dudziak criticizes the Federalist Society for organizing an all-male panel on the Supreme Court's terrorism cases. However, the rival liberal American Constitution Society has also held an all male panel on terrorism jurisprudence. Are they somehow biased against women as well? A more comprehensive analysis of Fed Soc panels would almost certainly reveal that women are represented in rough proportion to their general presence among elite lawyers and legal academics (in both of which groups women are still significantly less than 50% of the relevant population), with probably some additional disparity from the fact that there are proportionately fewer women among conservative and libertarian legal scholars than among liberal and left-wing ones. The latter is partly a function of the fact that women in general are somewhat more liberal than men, and partly a result of the reality that ideological gap between male and female legal academics is considerably greater than in the general public, with female Republicans being the most underrepresented group on law school faculties relative to their proportion of the general population. Although the Federalist Society tries hard to find liberal and left-wing speakers for most of its events, it is logical that conservative and libertarian speakers would be disproportionately represented at events sponsored by what is after all a conservative and libertarian organization.

Finally, Prof. Muller faults the Federalist Society for having a "male President, Senior Vice President, and Executive Vice President." However, Fed Soc Senior Vice President Lee Liberman Otis (one of the founders of the organization) is in fact a woman. The Fed Soc website Muller links to lists not only Otis, but quite a few other women in Fed Soc leadership positions. Many women serve in other prominent Fed Soc roles not listed at that particular site. For example as board members of the Society's practice groups on various issues. It is the practice groups (along with local chapters) that organize most Fed Soc-sponsored events. The Federalism and Separation of Powers Practice Group board has usually had 2-3 female members out of 6 or 7 total during the year that I have been a member of it myself.

Personally, I don't much care how many women are in the Fed Soc leadership (so long as female candidates are considered on the same criteria as men), except in so far as a higher figure might increase the appeal of libertarianism and small government conservatism to women more generally. However, it is wrong to suggest that the Fed Soc somehow excludes women from leadership roles or as panel speakers.

UPDATE: I see that Prof. Muller has acknowledged the error about Otis in an update to his original post. He was, perhaps, misled by her first name ("Lee"), which is more commonly a male name.

advisory opinion:
"However, Fed Soc Senior Vice President Lee Liberman Otis (one of the founders of the organization) is in fact a woman."

Pwnt.
7.9.2007 6:09pm
A.C.:
Just read the other post and all the responses, and I have only one to add. To get a woman on any one Federalist Society panel, you don't just need a female legal scholar with a certain ideological viewpoint and the time to attend. You need to find one who works on the particular subject matter of the panel. Conservative women in the legal academy may not be evenly distributed across specialties.

I would bet on finding more conservative women in fields related to business and tax law, and fewer in cultural and national security issues... pretty much the opposite of what you'd expect among left-leaning women. Women with high-powered careers aren't - by definition - going to be extreme cultural conservatives, and there are fewer women with the military background that national security types often have. But capitalism seems to work the same for everyone, and lots of women seem to like it.

I'm female, if anyone is still counting.
7.9.2007 6:39pm
Ilya Somin:
To get a woman on any one Federalist Society panel, you don't just need a female legal scholar with a certain ideological viewpoint and the time to attend. You need to find one who works on the particular subject matter of the panel. Conservative women in the legal academy may not be evenly distributed across specialties.

That may well be true. However, the proportion of nonliberal women in virtually every specialty is still lower than the proportion of nonliberal men in the same. Thus a partial explanation for the fact that, on average, there will be relatively fewer women on Fed Soc panels where conservatives and libertarians are disproportionately represented.
7.9.2007 6:43pm
IL:
What counts as "extreme" social conservativism?
7.9.2007 6:50pm
theobromophile (www):
A few days ago, Prof. Volokh posted a spreadsheet from the ABA with the number of law students each year, broken down by gender. As I recall, back in the '60s and '70s, only about 10-15% of law students were women. Those are the people who are now experienced enough to be panelists at such events.

The relevant comparison is not the general population; it is the conservative/libertarian lawyers (or law professors or judges) who are at the peak of their careers. The Fed Soc panels, although often male, seem to correspond roughly with the 5-10% of lawyers who are of that age group, female, and conservative or libertarian.

Even now, only about a fifth (at most, a third) of Fed Soc student chapters are female. Thirty years from now, would we really expect that more than 1/3d of panelists be female?
7.9.2007 6:51pm
JosephSlater (mail):
The people who are experienced enough went to law school in the 1960s? That cohert are in their 60s, at least. Folks from the somewhat more gender balanced law school classes of the mid-1980s and early 1990s -- who would be in their forties -- are, as a group, not "experienced enough to be a panelist"?

Beyond that, wow, this sure touched a nerve. Again, the striking thing is that this wasn't just a four or five person panel, but rather a nineteen person panel, where the absence of women is, let's say, statistically less likely to happen by chance.

It's not the biggest deal in the world, and not my business, as I'm not a Fed Soc guy. But again I wonder what folks would think about a 19-member panel sponsored by a major legal organization on a general legal topic if the 19 were all women. You wouldn't wonder how that happened?
7.9.2007 7:10pm
advisory opinion:
Statistics not your strong point then.
7.9.2007 7:18pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Advisory opinion:

My claim was that, given a pool with both men and women to choose from, it's more unlikely to get an all-male panel if you have a 19-person panel than it is to get an all-male panel if you have a 4 or 5 person panel. If that's the claim to which you're taking exception, could you please explain my error? Because it seems pretty obviously correct to me.
7.9.2007 7:23pm
theobromophile (www):
Good point, Joseph.

Yes, law schools became substantially more diverse in the '80s and '90s. I wasn't at the panel; what is the median age of the panelists? Standard deviation?

The relevant pipeline is not the general population (51% female), or the population of lawyers (30ish% female), but conservative lawyers who are of the age (we'll bicker later) to be on this panel. My guess it that the latter group is something like 5% female or 10% female.
7.9.2007 7:24pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Theobromophile:

Well, as an academic in his 40s, I have a vested interest in arguing that folks my age are qualified to be on panels.

I would guess we don't actually disagree much, if at all. I'm sure you're right that the relevant pool of potential female speakers is significantly smaller than male speakers. 19-0 still seems rather striking, though, and there's a post by Alison N. in the other thread that works out the odds even if the numbers are 75% male or even 95% male.

But hey, again, it's not my organization.
7.9.2007 7:31pm
theobromophile (www):
Not meant as a slight to you - it's just that most of the Federalist events I've been to have panelists who were in law school in the '60s and '70s.

The difference between 75% male and 95% male is pretty huge for the statistical purposes. The chances of there being no women are (.75)^19 for the former (0.4%) and (.95)^19 for the latter. If I hit the buttons on my desktop calculator correctly, there is a 29% chance that a 95% male group will yield 19/19 male panelists. (Someone who has a real calculator around, please do the math! :) )
7.9.2007 7:47pm
advisory opinion:
Sorry, I wasn't taking issue with the relative probabilities between 5 person panels and 19 person panels given the same pool of potential panelists. If that's all you were asserting, then it would be trivially true (the difference would be minimal anyway if the pool was > 96% male).

Rather, I was taking issue with the assertion that it was "unlikely" for a 19 member randomly selected panel to be all male. We don't know if it's unlikely or not unless we know the makeup of the selection pool.
7.9.2007 7:53pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Theobromophile: No slight taken, I was just joking about me personally. And thanks for doing the math.

And Advisory Opinion, I'll take it that what you were criticizing me about re statistics was the point Alison N. corrected you on in the other thread (it doesn't matter that it wasn't randomly selected, in this case).
7.9.2007 7:55pm
theobromophile (www):
Re-did the calculation on Excel (just read Eugene's post on that). 0.95^19 = 0.377 or roughly 38%. If the relevant population is indeed 95% male, it's not at all surprising to get 19 out of 19 panelists who are male. (Intuitively, we know that 19 out of 20 are male, so 19 out of 19 isn't too far off the mark.)

Advisory opinion: no, we cannot tell you the exact makeup of the relevant selection pool, but we can guess. Count back 20 or 30 years and see who was in law school; see who is practicing now; see how many are conservative or libertarian women. 5% is not an unreasonable guess.
7.9.2007 7:57pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Advisory:

Ah, we were posting at the same time. I believe I've made it clear in several posts that I understand the concept of the selection pool in these sorts of statistics. And as I've also said, if the number of women available to be selected is small, that just shifts the question to, "why are there so few women interested in speaking for the Federalist Society?"

But for the last time (I'm out of here now), it's not my organization, so those in it can worry about that.
7.9.2007 7:58pm
theobromophile (www):

And as I've also said, if the number of women available to be selected is small, that just shifts the question to, "why are there so few women interested in speaking for the Federalist Society?"


It also shifts the "blame" (if there is such a thing) from those organising the panel to a) the Federalist Society in general; b) legal academia; or c) society in general (if it discourages talented conservative women from going into legal academia).
7.9.2007 8:01pm
advisory opinion:
Later Slater!

It also shifts the "blame" (if there is such a thing) from those organising the panel to a) the Federalist Society in general; b) legal academia . . .


Or women for self-selecting out of the FedSoc?

Blame liberal oppression imo.
7.9.2007 8:12pm
Mark Field (mail):

A more comprehensive analysis of Fed Soc panels would almost certainly reveal that women are represented in rough proportion to their general presence among elite lawyers and legal academics


Do you think this happens (I assume it does) because the probabilities simply work out that way, or do you think that most FedSoc panel organizers make an effort to assure a more proportionate result?
7.9.2007 8:13pm
Ilya Somin:
Do you think this happens (I assume it does) because the probabilities simply work out that way, or do you think that most FedSoc panel organizers make an effort to assure a more proportionate result?

The former.
7.9.2007 8:19pm
q:

Again, the striking thing is that this wasn't just a four or five person panel, but rather a nineteen person panel, where the absence of women is, let's say, statistically less likely to happen by chance.

Even assuming the .5% number is true, over a period of, say, 10 years of panels, the statistical likelihood is fairly high.
7.9.2007 8:26pm
q:
Clarification: the statisical likelihood of an all-male panel occurring once is fairly high.

My point being that simply looking at this one panel is not enough to draw any conclusions. Small sample size, and all that.
7.9.2007 8:28pm
loki13 (mail):
The Federalist Society sez:

"But some of my best friends are women!"

Wow... methinks the Volokh Conspiracy doth protest too much.
7.9.2007 8:33pm
frankcross (mail):
If the Federalist Society truly sought balanced panels, the proportion of libertarian/conservatives who are women wouldn't be dispositive, would it? If there are women with other views?
7.9.2007 8:59pm
michael (mail) (www):
The organizers could have relied on the crude proxy that most Russian Jewish immigrants and/or most atheists are more socially liberal than Bork is.

I misposted my reaction in the blogpost above. I had the privilege of going to a Rabbi Zimmerman's Torah class. He recounted the decision, which he was part of, of Reform Judaism's certifying body denying an application of a group in Indiana for a synagogue as they were self identifying as atheists. This was, as I reflect on it, somewhat in contrast to his reflection that the ancients could hold 2 contradictory views.
7.9.2007 9:50pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
It's not the biggest deal in the world, and not my business, as I'm not a Fed Soc guy. But again I wonder what folks would think about a 19-member panel sponsored by a major legal organization on a general legal topic if the 19 were all women. You wouldn't wonder how that happened?
Joseph, what's with the playing coy. Are you "wondering" how it happened (that they were all men)? Or are you making an accusation? If so, what? That the organizers deliberately excluded women?
7.9.2007 10:11pm
Hei Lun Chan (mail) (www):
"But some of my best friends are women!"

Wow... methinks the Volokh Conspiracy doth protest too much.


You do understand that the reason that "... but some of my best friends are black!" is frowned upon is that in the old days, when people said that, their "best friends" were actually their maids and butlers? When you actually have friends who are black, it's a fairly good defense that you're not a racist. Likewise, noting that the Federalist Society has a lot of female members seems to me to be a good response to accusations that they ... don't have enough female members.
7.9.2007 10:18pm
Mary Dudziak (www):
Since Ilya Somin took the time to point out how "seriously misguided" my post was, I wanted to add a reminder that the purpose of my Legal History Blog post was to point readers to the on-line video of the Bork conference. Some would be interested because of Bork's role in legal history, or because conservative legal thought is an aspect of American legal thought worth studying. Some would be interested because they might agree with his views!

Whenever I point readers to a source that has a problem, I tend to point out the problem. When I blogged about a similarly gender challenged program on teaching about the military in American history (and yes, there are top-notch female historians working on relevant topics), I noted the problem.

Now that we know that some folks seem particularly sensitive about this issue in the Federalist Society, perhaps we'll just keep an eye on it.
7.9.2007 10:45pm
Acksiom (mail) (www):
Mary, first you need to conclusively prove that a meaningful 'problem' or an 'issue' actually exists.

Because as I said in the previous thread, standard complaints -- yours included, AFAICT -- about 'representation' (or in this case 'gender challenged-ness') pretty much necessarily assume that the white males in question are incapable of comprehending, integrating, utilizing, and expresing such alternative viewpoints; i.e., that the selected panel, being white males, simply cannot and will not understand and provide such gender and 'race' differences in their presentations at the event themselves.

The general abstract form of your complaint necessarily requires that only members of particular 'races' and genders can meaningfully present the viewpoints of said 'races' and genders, and if that is the case, then you've automatically invalidated the purpose of presenting said viewpoints to members of other 'races and genders, i.e. to have said others comprehend them.

Because if they can comprehend them, then white males who actually have done so should be able to present them as well -- fundamentally obviating the need for them to be presented by members of such 'races' and genders.

And if they can't comprehend them, what is the point of presenting them? What then is the point of even trying to understand people of different 'races' or genders?
7.9.2007 11:25pm
Ilya Somin:
If the Federalist Society truly sought balanced panels, the proportion of libertarian/conservatives who are women wouldn't be dispositive, would it? If there are women with other views?

Not necessarily. For 2 reasons. First, representation of opposing views is not the ONLY goal the Fed Soc pursues in putting together events. They also try to make the case for conservatism and libertarianism. Second, conservative and libertarian scholars are more likely to accept Fed Soc invitations than liberal and left-wing ones. So even if the Fed Soc is completely evenhanded in its invitations, it would probably get more conservative and libertarian participants at its events, and therefore a disproportionately lower percentage of women.
7.9.2007 11:47pm
Ilya Somin:
Since Ilya Somin took the time to point out how "seriously misguided" my post was, I wanted to add a reminder that the purpose of my Legal History Blog post was to point readers to the on-line video of the Bork conference. Some would be interested because of Bork's role in legal history, or because conservative legal thought is an aspect of American legal thought worth studying. Some would be interested because they might agree with his views!

I have no quarrel with Prof. Dudziak's characterization of her purpose. But she also criticized the Fed Soc for the alleged exclusion of women. That is the part of her post that I chose to respond to. I don't think I'm required to analyze every aspect of a post whenever I consider one aspect.
7.9.2007 11:48pm
Ilya Somin:
Now that we know that some folks seem particularly sensitive about this issue in the Federalist Society, perhaps we'll just keep an eye on it.

Prof. Dudziak has every right to "keep an eye" on this issue if she wants to. For my part, I would note that the "sensitivity" in question is not about the proportion of women who appear at various Fed Soc events, but about the implied accusation that any "underrepresentation" is due to gender bias or exclusionary practices of some kind. As I noted in the post, I am mostly indifferent to the percentage issue in and of itself.
7.9.2007 11:52pm
junglegym (mail):
When calculating the relevant population for selection keep in mind that even for more recent cohorts, as women approach fifty percent of the graduating classes in law school, they are still underrepresented among those likely to become "elite lawyers and academics" since they comprise less than forty percent of those graduating in the top tenth of their class in top law schools. (Check it out in the most recent Order of the Coif directory.)
7.10.2007 12:00am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
One point. We liberals should not be worrying about the composition of Federalist Society panels. Who cares. Did you ever buy into the idea that they were any more than propoganda pushers anyway? Buy debating about the composition of these panels, we implicitly assume that they matter. This is a bad assumption.
7.10.2007 12:58am
A.C.:
IL - When I wrote it, I understood "extreme" social conservatism as buying the whole conservative package on gender relations and lifestyle issues... not just picking a couple of issues like gay marriage and abortion. This tends to involve women in the home, large families, and often home schooling. Lots of people live this way, but women who live this way typically don't pursue professional careers.
7.10.2007 6:06am
Carrie L. (mail):
I am a female president of the student chapter of The Federalist Society at the University of Mississippi. Last year, two of our officers were female. The year before, two of our officers were female. We hosted a panel last semester with a female professor, not because of her gender, but because of her expertise. When planning the panel, the paramount consideration was substantive ideological diversity, not diversity of superficial characteristics. I always find it interesting that many of the people who seem so obsessed with diversity based on superficial characteristics (gender, race, etc.), as well as quotas based on these characteristics, never seem to worry themselves much about diversity of ideas. So I suppose these people wouldn't object to a one-sided conservative panel, as long as the panel includes females and/or minorities?

I will be attending the Federalist Society's Student Leadership Conference this weekend, and judging from the materials I have received, there are many other female student chapter officers (mostly presidents) from around the country who will be in attendance. The assertion that the Federalist Society excludes females from participation in the organization is absolutely ridiculous. My gender has not once been made an issue since I joined the fed society almost 2 years ago. I would be severely disappointed if the fed society started trying to meet superficial gender quotas on its panels. I would much rather have quality and diversity of ideas.

And I agree with I.L...defending the society from unfounded accusations of gender bias does not equal sensitivity. Perhaps those making such unfounded accusations are the overly sensitive ones.
7.10.2007 9:00pm