The Federalist Society and All-Male Panels:

Recent criticism of the Federalist Society for hosting some all-male panels and conferences is, as Eugene explains, seriously misguided. As Eugene implies, the main goal for a conference or panel (in addition to quality) should be ideological and viewpoint diversity. Gender, like race and religion, sometimes correlates with ideological orientation and can serve as a crude proxy for it. However, in the case of academic panels and conferences, there is no need to use such a proxy because the views of potential participants can be much more accurately inferred from their previous writings and public statements. For example, I was invited to be on one of the panels at the Bork conference criticized by Eric Muller and Mary Dudziak because, as a libertarian, I strongly disagree with Judge Bork's proposals for government regulation of culture, which were the subject of the panel. The organizers could have relied on the crude proxy that most Russian Jewish immigrants and most atheists are more socially liberal than Bork is. However, they rightly relied instead on my publicly expressed views on the subject, which are a much more accurate indication of my position than my ethnicity, gender, or religious orientation.

A second problem is that it is dangerous to infer an organization's general policies from the composition of one or two individual panels. For example, Professor Dudziak criticizes the Federalist Society for organizing an all-male panel on the Supreme Court's terrorism cases. However, the rival liberal American Constitution Society has also held an all male panel on terrorism jurisprudence. Are they somehow biased against women as well? A more comprehensive analysis of Fed Soc panels would almost certainly reveal that women are represented in rough proportion to their general presence among elite lawyers and legal academics (in both of which groups women are still significantly less than 50% of the relevant population), with probably some additional disparity from the fact that there are proportionately fewer women among conservative and libertarian legal scholars than among liberal and left-wing ones. The latter is partly a function of the fact that women in general are somewhat more liberal than men, and partly a result of the reality that ideological gap between male and female legal academics is considerably greater than in the general public, with female Republicans being the most underrepresented group on law school faculties relative to their proportion of the general population. Although the Federalist Society tries hard to find liberal and left-wing speakers for most of its events, it is logical that conservative and libertarian speakers would be disproportionately represented at events sponsored by what is after all a conservative and libertarian organization.

Finally, Prof. Muller faults the Federalist Society for having a "male President, Senior Vice President, and Executive Vice President." However, Fed Soc Senior Vice President Lee Liberman Otis (one of the founders of the organization) is in fact a woman. The Fed Soc website Muller links to lists not only Otis, but quite a few other women in Fed Soc leadership positions. Many women serve in other prominent Fed Soc roles not listed at that particular site. For example as board members of the Society's practice groups on various issues. It is the practice groups (along with local chapters) that organize most Fed Soc-sponsored events. The Federalism and Separation of Powers Practice Group board has usually had 2-3 female members out of 6 or 7 total during the year that I have been a member of it myself.

Personally, I don't much care how many women are in the Fed Soc leadership (so long as female candidates are considered on the same criteria as men), except in so far as a higher figure might increase the appeal of libertarianism and small government conservatism to women more generally. However, it is wrong to suggest that the Fed Soc somehow excludes women from leadership roles or as panel speakers.

UPDATE: I see that Prof. Muller has acknowledged the error about Otis in an update to his original post. He was, perhaps, misled by her first name ("Lee"), which is more commonly a male name.