Can Three Women Really Change the Supreme Court?

By , August 31, 2010 6:52 pm
Kagan Prepares Statement For SCOTUS Hearing
Image by talkradionews via Flickr

Much has been made of the fact that Elena Kagan’s ascent to the Supreme Court means that for the first time in American history there will be three women on the high court. But beyond the fact that the court will be slightly more representative of the American people, and the possibility of yet more white lacy scarves from on high, what does the difference between having one, two, or three women at the court really signify?

Social scientists contend that the difference is more than just cosmetic. They cite a 2006 study by the Wellesley Centers for Women that found three to be the magic number when it came to the impact of women on corporate boards: after the third woman is seated, boards reach a tipping point at which the group as a whole begins to function differently. According to Sumru Erkut, one of the authors of that study, the small group as a whole becomes more collaborative, and more open to different perspectives. In no small part, she writes, that’s because once a critical mass of three women is achieved on a board, it’s more likely that all the women will be heard. In other words, it’s not that they bring any kind of unitary women’s perspective to the board—there’s precious little evidence that women think differently from men about business or law—but that if you seat enough women, the question of whether women deserve the seat finally goes away. Women speak openly when they don’t feel their own voice is meant to reflect all women.

via Can Three Women Really Change the Supreme Court? – Newsweek.

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