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Women's Representation in the Judiciary

Women attend law school at equal rates as men but are underrepresented as judges

  • 4 of 9 Supreme Court Justices
  • 32% of sitting Federal Judges (excluding the Supreme Court)
  • 34% of State Court Judges

Out of the 116 justices that have ever served on the Supreme Court, only six have been women, accounting for only 5 percent. Four of the six female Justices in the Supreme Court’s history are currently on the bench. Additionally, 72 of the 174 active judges currently sitting on the thirteen federal courts of appeal are female (41%).

These numbers are even worse for women of color

  • 2 of 9 Supreme Court Justices 
  • 16% of Federal Judges (excluding the Supreme Court)

In 2009, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor became the first woman of color to sit on the Supreme Court. In 2022, she was joined by Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first and only Black woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court.

Is representation improving?

When in office, President Barack Obama facilitated significant progress for women judges and more than doubled the number of women of color in federal judicial positions. 42 percent of his confirmed nominees to federal courts were women.

Unfortunately, this progress was not sustained under the Trump Administration. During his time in office, President Donald Trump appointed over 200 judges to the federal bench, with women accounting for only about one quarter. 

As of November 2023, President Joe Biden appointed 145 judges to the federal judiciary. Of these appointees, women account for just over 66%, with 42% being women of color.


Sources: Federal Judicial Center Brennan Center for Justice, Center for American ProgressNational Women's Law Center, The Gavel Gap, Federal Judicial Center, National Association of Women Judges, Pew Research Center