Article highlights the Infinity Project, based in Minnesota and created to bring awareness for the importance of gender equity to the 8th Circuit, which includes Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas.
The lack of gender diversity on the federal bench seems to be an “anomaly” because since the 1980s more women have joined the legal profession, more women have entered law schools in recent years and women continue to apply when openings are available.
But women still lag behind with 328 on the federal bench, compared to 442 men, according to the Federal Judicial Center website. The imbalance is more obvious in Iowa. No women on the Supreme Court, none in the Southern District and only one in the Northern District. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Iowa, has one woman, the only one ever appointed.
U.S. Magistrate Celeste Bremer of the Southern District said the only conclusion she can reach after being on the bench 26 years is that it hasn’t been important enough to those who make the recommendations.
“It’s not that there is a lack of talented, experience women or enough women in the pool,” Bremer said. “I think women have made themselves available. So, how do we change that? We have to make it important to the state senators.”
Advocates working to bring gender equity to the bench remain optimistic in light of the recent Senate confirmation of three women to two federal courts in New York and Arkansas, and the recommendations Sen. Tom Harkin made of three women to fill the vacancy in the Southern District.
Debra Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Infinity Project based in Minnesota, said that’s why four years ago the project was created to bring awareness for the importance of gender equity to the 8th Circuit, which includes Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas.
The project, housed at the Center on Women and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, started with four volunteers, including Fitzpatrick, who were “shocked and appalled” by the gender statistics.