Gender gap prevalent in US attorney nominations by Trump

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

President Donald Trump has chosen only one woman to fill one of the 42 nominated U.S. attorney positions, illustrating a large gender equality gap at the highest level of the justice system. The UT School of Law’s 2016 enrolling class was 44 percent women, according to the school’s website.

“The appointment powers are some of the strongest powers in creating diversity and more inclusive environments,” executive director of UT’s Center for Women in Law Linda Chanow said. “Diversity in legal appointments is essential to ensuring the fair and equitable administration of the law.”

Law school enrollment across the U.S. consists of over 50 percent women according to the data released by the American Bar Association in December 2016. Senators from each of the 93 districts make recommendations to the president on who to nominate, but, according to Chanow, those senators tend to not look outside of their predominately male inner-circle.

“It’s really critical to make an intentional decision to look outside of your networks to see other highly qualified people for these roles,” Chanow said. “You’re asking the same people who are from the same backgrounds as you and end up producing a talent pool that is much more narrow than what actually exists in the legal profession.” 

With the amount of women in law school, law student Laura Mahler wrote in an email, the gap is not because women don’t pursue federal prosecution jobs but rather because they are not being promoted.

“Federal prosecutors have quite a bit of discretion as to what charges are brought against a defendant,” Mahler said. “The people making those decisions should not exclusively be older white males. A diversity of perspectives is paramount to bringing real justice to our justice system.”

Legal positions for women will grow with the mentorship of female students, law student Judy Schweinfurth said.

“It is difficult for the number of female attorneys to grow when they are not mentored and fostered by other strong women above them,” Schweinfurth said. “I know that Dean (Ward) Farnsworth has a personal goal of making sure that not only are the students diverse, but that those diverse students can go into the workforce and be successful.”

The UT law program has striven to highlight achievements of women alumnae, Chanow said.

“Before I came, women were not playing a predominately visible roles in those positions,” Chanow said. “I’ve seen a more robust group of alumni engaged in the law school than ever before.”