Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
When I learned of the President’s choice for the next Supreme Court Justice a few weeks ago, it hit me immediately – this would be the third woman on the Court. “Three” is the number of women needed to make an impact, according to several research studies. Three shifts the dynamics of corporate boards when it is reached and creates a more “mainstream” feel to the gender balance of a small group. So it causes me to wonder – what dynamic might be changed with three women on the Court for the first time? Would this 3 of 9 ratio change the way we view the Supreme Court – or our perception of women and power?
Marcia Greenberg, head of the National Women’s Law Center, summed it up by saying, “…with two women on the Supreme Court…they are seen as exceptions to the rule.” She added that the potential addition of Elena Kagan would “move toward the day when it’s accepted that women are just as likely as men to be on the Supreme Court.”
Or anyplace else!
We still have a long way to go to improve the stats. In the area of law, although women make up about 50% of law school graduates, only 19% are law firm partners and 25% are judges. We have seen imbalance in statistics like these across most industries and professions. And corporate boards reflect the same thing – women comprise only 15% of the seats on the boards of Fortune 500 companies.
However, in those companies that have more female directors, the dynamics do seem to change the conversation. The Wellesley Centers for Women interviewed women directors as well as CEOs from Fortune 500 companies and found that, “Though two women are generally more powerful than one, it takes three or more women to achieve the critical mass that can cause a fundamental change in the boardroom and enhance corporate governance.” One of the respondents stated it this way, “It is clear you are not there because of gender but because of talent.”
This study and others have shown that those talents women contribute offer a number of positives including fresh perspectives, expanding conversations, raising new issues, asking tough questions, and promoting collaboration. All in all – it sounds like a strong case for including greater numbers of women in top positions. It will be interesting to see how it plays out on the Supreme Court.
What do you think? Please share!