Victor Hansen

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March 13, 2007


Orin S. Kerr


Assuming that individual law professors are making a free choice to specialize in whatever field they think is most important and interesting, why is it objectionable if a particular subgroup -- in this case, women professors -- tend to conclude that your field simply is not one of them?

Steve Vladeck

Orin -- It's not the least bit objectionable, but it presupposes two points that I'm not sure are true: (1) That there are almost no women teaching in (or near) the field currently, hence the gender gap at symposia; and (2) that there are no institutional reasons why aspiring women law professors are being pushed away from national security law as a field.

Orin Kerr


Sorry, I thought you had stated the first assumption as a fact when you wrote that the field is "heavily saturated" with men and that "there is a rather substantial lack of women currently teaching it." I completely agree that I am making the second assumption; that is why I began my post with the caveat, "Assuming that individual law professors are making a free choice to specialize in whatever field they think is most important and interesting . . . " I'm not aware of a reason why this assumption is wrong, although if you have specific reasons to think it is that would of course be very helpful to know.

Steve Vladeck

Orin -- I guess that's the point of the post: To try to develop some anecdotal evidence, if nothing else, of where the problem is on this front...


I understand the need for viewpoint diversity, but what exactly is "women's national security law"?

And if it is "role models" that matter, why do academic panels count more then a sitting, female, black, Secretary of State?

Mary Dudziak

I notice that there are a number of women on the Executive Committee of the AALS Section on National Security Law.
Hardly a lack of interest. I would suggest that future program planners ask these women for names of women speakers. When planning an event, we often turn first to the folks we usually talk to. It's a better practice, for all sorts of reasons, to branch out.

Orin S. Kerr

Thanks, Mary. I would also branch out beyond the academy, as many of the best national security law experts are not professors. In particular, I have been extremely impressed by Suzanne Spaulding, currently a Principal at Bingham Consulting Group, who is a former Assistant General Counsel at the CIA and former General Counsel of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mary Dudziak

Also, keep an eye on the new blog, IntLawGrrls, where perhaps ironically, they just noted a gender imbalance in the opposite direction among participants in an international law conference at Yale.

Kathleen Clark

I'm glad that you raise this issue. Mary's absolutely correct. There are women in this field. But most of the "usual suspects" are white men. So unless panel / conference organizers make diversity a priority, it won't happen. Another way of putting this is that you can see whether the organizers value diversity by looking at the results of their efforts.

Diane Marie Amann

I suspect that if the National Institute of Military Justice ( is able to place several women on its boards of advisers and directors, there are many women who could and should be invited to such panels. They are, or ought to be, "usual suspects."
(NIMJ's board members include a number of women law professors and more than one woman who served in uniform. They include as well yours truly, who was the principal co-author of NIMJ's amicus brief before the Supreme Court in Hamdan, which relied quite heavily, as one would expect, on military law, and who has presented a U.S. report on military justice/military commissions at a 16-country comparative conference on same in Paris.)
Thanks to Kathleen Clark for bringing this to my attention -- this all will be cross-blogged soon at IntLawGrrls (, our brand-new blog composed of international women who do international law. We too are, or ought to be, usual suspects.
All the best,

Mary Dudziak

This link will work better for IntLawGrrls:

Bobby Chesney

The leadership of the AALS Section on National Security Law, which Kathleen chaired last year, has reflected at least some degree of gender diversity since its inception (and here it is worth noting that no one is more responsible for the creation of the section than the incomparable Elizabeth Rindsopf Parker (currently Dean of McGeorge)). And I tend to agree with Mary that there are a substantial number of other female profs with a demonstrable interest in this area as well. In the absence of evidence that these profs are being excluded from events such as AALS, then, we might more profitably focus on whether other diversity factors such as race are problematically missing in the national security law area. Certainly women have not been excluded from the Section's annual event at AALS in the past, and there's no reason to expect they will be in the future (we've only just begun inviting folks for next year's panel in New York, but I can tell you, apropos of Orin's comment, that the panel will include Suzanne Spaulding, who is indeed extremely impressive). As for the MCA panel that began this might be useful for those who weren't there to know that the panel was organized by myself and Janet Alexander and that it was put together on a rush basis through the AALS "hot topics" process as a last-minute addition to the schedule. The original lineup was to be: Curt Bradley and Carlos Vazquez to debate those aspects of the MCA that purported to govern the reception of the Geneva Conventions into our domestic law, and Janet Alexander, Brad Berenson, and Steve Vladeck to debate the habeas restrictions. As it turned out, Janet had to drop out at the very last minute, and we were fortunate indeed that Marty Lederman agreed to fill in. The result was a very-balanced dialogue that went far deeper than the typical conference panel.

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