News articles and editorials about Obama's possible Supreme Court justice candidates show how much has changed for women lawyers and judges in recent decades. Reagan apparently didn't have a lot of options for women candidates when he selected Sandra Day O'Connor. Clinton had more options when he selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but the pool of possible women candidates was still small.
Today that is no longer the case. Obama has a wide range of choices among highly qualified women and men representing diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
If Obama selects a woman to replace Souter, it will be particularly interesting because less than 2 years ago Souter was quoted as saying that all the "top" applicants for law clerks that year were men. I was skeptical about this and used the incident to discuss the concept of "top" applicants in general.
Why has the number of women reaching the upper levels of the legal profession changed so much in the past 20 years but the same is not the case for science and engineering in academia, government, or the private sector? The number of women students has increased tremendously, but the ceiling or the leaking pipeline or whatever symbol you want to use to explain the lack of women full professors, deans, directors, presidents and so on still exists for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
Maybe there are so many differences between law and STEM that the question is pointless, but it caught my interest that one male dominated field changed so dramatically and another has not changed nearly as much.
Is part of the answer, at least in terms of comparing law with the physical sciences, that the legal profession has many more options and available positions, creating more opportunities?
When positions at a certain level are limited (Supreme Court law clerks and justices), however, and women are no longer the "top" candidates as often as men, do the differences between law and science diminish?
Mostly I am wondering, if it is reasonable to make any comparison between law and science, whether there is something we can learn from the evolution of the legal profession in recent decades that would help increase the number of women who choose and succeed in professions involving science, technology, engineering, and math or whether the differences are intrinsic to each field.
8 years ago