Breaking the judicial glass ceiling: The appointment of women to high courts worldwide

Maria C. Escobar-Lemmon, Valerie J. Hoekstra, Alice J. Kang, Miki Caul Kittilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The salience of judicial institutions in democratic and nondemocratic countries has increased, making it important to have women on these powerful and visible decision-making bodies. Yet, women have only recently gained entrance to peak judicial bodies including constitutional and supreme courts. The appointment of the first woman to a high court is a historic landmark, breaking traditional ideas of who can and should be on the court. Using a global, longitudinal data set we show that certain explanatory factors matter differently in wealthy, stable democracies and in developing countries. The method of selecting high court justices exerts influence in wealthy, stable democracies but not newer ones. Further, our findings suggest that in both sets of countries, appointments to high courts are not made in a domestic vacuum and are influenced by international norms of having women participate in governing institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)662-674
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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