Banner Top Arch

Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy

Women's Share of Seats on the Nation's State Benches Inches up in 2012

UAlbany Report: Highest Percentage of Women Judgeships are in Montana and Vermont

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 16, 2012) -- Women's share of the nation's state judgeships in 2012 rose 0.7 percent over its 2011 level, but women's representation on the nation's federal benches dropped 0.1 percent, according to a report released by the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society (CWGCS) at the University at Albany's Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy.

Overall, the number of women in state and federal benches combined rose to 27.1 percent, up from 26.6 percent in 2011.
Judicial symbols
Overall, the number of women in state and federal benches combined rose to 27.1 percent, up from 26.6 percent in 2011.

The report examines the parity of gender in the judiciary, recording percentages of women holding state judgeships and federal judgeships, and their combined numbers, by region and state.

The share of women on combined state and federal benches was highest in the Northwest region, at 30.4 percent of all judges on the state and federal benches. The Northwest was followed by the Northeast, where women held 30 percent of the benches, the Southwest at 29.2 percent, and the Southeast at 25.6 percent. The Midwest, where women's representation on state and federal benches is at 24.6 percent, ranked last among all regions.

Comparing the rate of change over the last two years reveals the biggest jump in the Northwest, where women's share of federal and state judgeships experienced an increase of 3.3 percent from 2010. The Northwest was followed by the Northeast where the rate of change was at 1.6 percent, the Southeast (1.1 percent) and the Southwest (0.8 percent). The Midwest experienced no change from its 2010 levels.

The report's major findings include:

* In 2012, women's share of seats on the nation's state and federal benches is at 27.1 percent, up from 26.6 percent in 2011 and 26 percent in 2010.
* Of the 19,334 judges on the nation's state and federal benches, 5,246 (27.1 percent) are women.
* Of the 17,462 judges on state benches, 4,796 -- 27.5 percent -- are women.
* Of the 1,874 judges on federal benches, 451 -- 24.1 percent -- are women.
* Thirteen states and the District of Columbia are labeled "Tier 1," where women occupy 30 percent or more of federal and state benches.
* Included in Tier 1 states are New York, Vermont, Kentucky, and Florida, among others. 
* Twenty-four states ranked in Tier 2, where women occupy 20 to 29 percent of seats on federal and state benches.
* Thirteen states are deemed Tier 3, where women occupied 19 percent or less of federal and state benches. 
* Montana ranked first in the nation with 40.3 percent of combined seats on federal and state benches occupied by women, while Idaho ranked last with 11.3 percent of state and federal judgeships occupied by women.

"This is both good news and bad news," said Dina Refki, director of CWGCS. "The good news is that there is movement at least at the state level, but the bad news is that the rate of change is so slow and in the case of the federal benches, we are experiencing a set-back. If women are graduating from law schools at the same rate as men and if there is a pool of qualified women who are ready to serve, there is no explanation for the unbalanced representation on the bench."

The report points argue that gender diversity on the bench is critical to judicial credibility and trust.

The Center for Women in Government & Civil Society is a cornerstone of women's leadership development, an academic research center, and a policy think tank which generates knowledge and provides analysis on issues facing women and girls.

Read the full report or contact CWGCS Director Dina Refki. For more UAlbany News, visit the News Center.