Politics & Gender

Research Article

Women's Representation on High Courts in Advanced Industrialized Countries

Margaret S. Williamsa1 and Frank C. Thamesa2

a1 Goucher College

a2 Texas Tech University


Recent scholarship increasingly considers the representation of women in cross-national legislatures, often examining how the characteristics of the countries in a particular region affect the representation of women in these elected bodies. No studies have examined the representation of women on the high courts in a cross-national context. We attempt to fill this void by collecting an original data set of women's participation on high courts in the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) from 2006 to 2007. Using this data, we examine how institutional choices of judicial selection and structural factors within the country affect women's representation. We find that the variation in women's participation on these courts, from 0% on some to 60% on others, is affected by the prestige of the court, the method of selection, and the tradition of and importance placed upon women's participation within the country. Our results suggest that choices made during the design of high courts can influence the representative nature of the institution.


The authors would like to thank Phoebe McDougal for her assistance with data collection for this project. They would also like to thank Melinda Adams, Beverley Baines, Lee Epstein, Marianne Githens, Sally Kenney, Kevin Scott, the editors, and the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.