Constitutional Law as Computer Science
Within universities there is a lot of talk about gender distribution in various academic specialties. It is well known, for example, that there are many more men in the field of computer science than there are women. Indeed, the gender gap appears to be widening. I wonder about legal specialties? Which fields have the largest gender gaps? It would be interesting to know the figures in legal practice as well as among law professors. It would also be interesting to know the numbers with respect to the most prominent people in particular fields.
In my own field, Constitutional Law, my impression, is that among the most prominent scholars there are far more men than women. (Here is an exercise: write down the ten best-known Constitutional Law professors: how many are women? And another exercise: how many prominent Constitutional Law professors who are women can you name?) There seem to be more men than women on panels at high-level conferences. Men seem to be quoted more often in national newspapers. More men seem to publish books with prestigious university presses than do women. And so on.
Some will say that women are not invited to appear on panels (and excluded from other opportunities as well) and that’s why the men are prominent. My impression, though, is that conference organizers at least try very hard to invite women as panelists. Women who have achieved a measure of prominence in the field are in high demand at events and often have to say no to many opportunities. Others will say that women do not get hired to teach in Constitutional Law in the same numbers as men. Again, though, my impression is that many schools aggressively try to find promising women candidates. If my impression about the gender distribution is right, the causes of the distribution would require research.
How about other fields of legal academia? Where are the largest gender gaps likely to be found? And what are some hypotheses about their causes? One might also look at sub-specialties within fields. (Do women work more on Equal Protection issues than on federalism questions?) It seems to me that somebody with some good statistical skills could generate a a study gender distribution in law and seek to test some hypotheses about its causes. Such a study would contribute to the existing literature done in other academic disciplines.
Finally, I should say that whether gender clustering in law (or other fields) is bad, good, or neither is a separate issue. People will formulate different views on that issue once the evidence is in.