WNA: Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court

3:00 – 4:30 pm

In Honor of Women's History Month


Women's Networking Association Presents: Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court

Celebrate Women’s History Month by joining Professor Renee Knake Jefferson for this special conversation about women shortlisted for the United States Supreme Court before Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice in 1981. Drawing from the research in her book Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court, Jefferson will introduce the audience to nine extraordinary women—a cohort large enough to seat the entire Supreme Court—who appeared on presidential lists dating back to the 1930s. These women include Florence Allen, the first female judge on the highest court in Ohio, was named repeatedly in those early years. Eight more followed, including Amalya Kearse, a federal appellate judge who was the first African American woman viewed as a potential Supreme Court nominee. In addition to filling a notable historical gap, Jefferson will discuss the harms of shortlisting― how adding qualified female candidates to a list but passing over them ultimately creates the appearance of diversity while preserving the status quo. This phenomenon often occurs with any pursuit of professional advancement, whether the judge in the courtroom, the CEO in the corner office, or the coach on the playing field. Women, and especially female minorities, while as qualified as others on the shortlist (if not more so), find themselves far less likely to be chosen. Jefferson will conclude a valuable set of strategies for upending the injustices that still endure, drawn from the personal and professional lives of the shortlisted sisters profiled in her book.

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Learning Objectives

  1. Learn the history of women considered for the United States Supreme Court before Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice
  2. Understand how shortlists can contribute to continued gender inequality in positions of leadership and power
  3. Identify concrete strategies for expanding diversity among leaders of all professions

About the Speaker


Renee Knake Jefferson

Professor of Law & Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics, University of Houston

Trustee, Michigan State University

Renee Knake Jefferson is a law professor and an award-winning author whose work is frequently featured in the media including appearances on MSNBC and National Public Radio. She holds the Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics at the University of Houston Law Center where she teaches ethics, constitutional law, and a writing seminar on gender, power, law, and leadership. She was appointed to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2019 following the resignation of a trustee over the university’s handling of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case. She testified in 2018 before a federal judiciary committee about reforms to workplace sexual harassment and misconduct rules. A Fulbright recipient and elected member of the American Law Institute, she regularly consults on matters related to lawyer/judicial ethics, gender diversity in leadership roles, and the first amendment and lawyer speech. She is the author of three casebooks, more than 20 law review articles, and the book Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court.