I never really blogged about the amazingly good time I had participating in the "Hot Topics" panel on the Military Commissions Act put together by our very own Bobby Chesney for this year's AALS Annual Meeting. Although AALS lost the podcast (doh!), Bobby has previously posted a link to a recording of the last hour of the panel, which, of course, misses all of my good points. :-) Seriously though -- the panel-as-dialogue idea worked amazingly well, I thought, and allowed us to really engage each other, rather than just peddle our own viewpoints (although we did some of that too).
My own good time notwithstanding, I heard two criticisms about the panel in its aftermath that gave me some pause. The first was that the "lefty" view was not adequately advocated by anyone on the panel, something that I took rather personally (but more on my grandparents and great-grandparents later), but which may well have been accurate.
The second, though, is perhaps the bigger one: That folks were upset by the gender diversity (or lack thereof) of the panelists. Indeed, the panel was five guys, moderated by a sixth guy, and pretty white at that. For full disclosure, the original composition of the panel included one woman, who was unable to attend AALS at the last minute. That's not to say, of course, that one woman would have been "enough" on a panel otherwise comprised almost entirely of white guys, just that the panel's composition did not ultimately reflect the efforts of its organizers.
But lest this be taken as criticism of the organizers, it is not meant to be, for my experience has suggested that this is a generic problem in national security law: that, especially as compared to other fields, and other constitutional law fields in particular, there is a rather substantial lack of women currently teaching it. (Note: I don't mean to suggest there isn't also a lack of diversity in other relevant areas, including race; just that the gender gap is where the difference between national security law and other law-teaching disciplines seems to me, at least, to be the most stark).
The various presidential power conferences and symposia I have participated (and will participate) in this year bear this point out rather convincingly. A quick perusal of the line-up for next Friday's Temple shin-dig, for example, shows that all nine panelists and the keynote speaker are men. In a way, I take some responsibility for that, since I didn't suggest other possible speakers and commentators. But in a way, we're all responsible.
So here's perhaps the real question going forward: Is the problem on the invitation side, or the invitee side? That is, are conference organizers not doing enough to diversify these panels, or are there so few women teaching in the field that the composition of panels is properly correlated to the reality of who's in the classroom?
My suspicion is a little bit of both -- That, for various reasons, the field is heavily saturated with men, especially white men, and that those women teaching and writing in the field tend to be overlooked by conference organizers, for reasons benign in most cases, but perhaps not in all.
So what do we do about it? Is there more that we, as national security law professors (and bloggers) can do to both facilitate the identification and to bolster the ranks of women teaching in the field? Are there ways in which lessons can be learned from other fields that have long struggled with the problem? For starters, would it be wrong to use this blog as a medium through which to identify those national security law scholars who would bring much-needed diversity (of any form) to these conversations?
I'm very curious for people's thoughts, especially since I can't help but point out that I am, in a very real way, a big part of the problem.