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The National Science Foundation

Gender inequality on high courts around the world poses potential problems for women’s rights, democratic equality, and public confidence in the judiciary. Who selects high court judges, and what role does religion play, if any, in how justices are appointed? In recent years, some countries have increased the number of women appointed to high courts. But why have more women been appointed to high courts in some countries and at some points in time than others? These are some of the questions that a team of researchers affiliated with ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies and Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict have set out to answer in the research project, “International Influences on Appointments to High Courts.” The project has been awarded a multi-year grant from The National Science Foundation.

The project will create a new and unique dataset that will be the first to systematically track women’s representation on high courts over time and across countries. The data will allow the researchers to test various explanations about why women have risen in the judiciary in some countries and not in others. Some of the variables they will be studying have to do with the process used to select high court judges, the ideologies of the actors who make up the selection process, the socio-economic and religious characteristics of the country, and the type of governmental structure. In addition to building the dataset, to the researchers will also carry out fieldwork at locations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America that will allow them to test and validate their findings. A key of the project goal is to make the dataset publically available and to present the project’s findings to key policy audiences in Washington, DC and New York.


Project Director and Principal Investigator

Miki Caul Kittilson, associate professor in the School of Politics and Global studies at Arizona State University

Project Team and Co-PIs

Valerie Hoekstra, associate professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University

Maria Escobar-Lemmon, associate professor and associate chair of political science at Texas A & M University

Alice Kang, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and in the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln